Solo Trip…In A New York State of Mind

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Around one year ago today, I was wandering aimlessly around New York City. Now to be honest, I have been to NYC roughly 8 times before but this trip was different for a few reasons. First, I was not there for some ‘famjam’ so my weekend didn’t consist of only family events. Secondly, I hardly told any family members that I was going to be in town by design. Thirdly, I booked my flight like 5 days before I jetted off, so there was no concrete plan, I literally opted to go to NYC randomly and I was rolling solo.

Coming from a West Indian background, when you are visiting it can be overwhelming seeing a lot of family, especially when they are spread out all over. ‘Liming’ by family consists of eating, gossip, being told I look chubbier than before, more eating, wondering why I am not married yet, more eating and being told that ‘I don’t need to see the sights its dangerous out there this isn’t like Canada’. The end result, the only thing I end up seeing is the inside of houses, living rooms and basements with an occasional backyard. This trip wasn’t for them it was for me, and if they’re reading this, sorry not sorry.

A few months before, I travelled alone out of Canada for the first time ever and while it was scary at first it was one of the best feelings of my life. This time around was easier because it was closer to home, I am familiar with NYC and no language barriers (well depending on which NYC accent you come across). Left my home at like 2pm on a Saturday for the airport and by 530pm I was in New York City. My cousin got me from LGA about an hour later and the next stop is BROOKLYN!

Okay, so there was a fourth reason I wanted to go to NYC if you’re a hip-hop head you may know why. Puff Daddy was having a concert at Barclays Center on Biggie’s birthday so ‘I had to be there’ (that’s the excuse I told myself). Honestly, it was worth it seeing the Bad Boy Family back together along with some special guests. I know later on they would tour North America but, I got a slightly different show because it was Brooklyn. My cousin and I had a ball! We were teenagers again wilding out to Bad Boy!

I got to see Mary J. Blige, Busta Rhymes, Desiigner and Fabolous! Now that alone was worth it but wait…There is more! Out of nowhere DMX came on the stage and started tearing it up and we lost our minds! Also, there was another unexpected guest streamed in from Belize, it was Shyne doing the track ‘Bad Boyz’ and again we lost our minds! I am realizing this whole paragraph uses exclamation marks!

Monday and Tuesday was dedicated to wandering and exploring NYC. My past experiences were like quick trips where if we did sightseeing it was like 90 mins then back to the car. Very seldom, did I get to enjoy NYC more organically. So since my cousin works in Manhattan I would take the train into Grand Central Station with him and then I would just go on way for like 8-9 hours and meet him up afterwards. It was a GREAT! I am an avid walker and I like going at my pace so this was ideal for m

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The Flatiron Building

 

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Grand Central Station

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Chrysler Building

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Empire State Building

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One World Trade Center

 

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New York Stock Exchange

After making a cameo appearance in Wall Street I decided to check an item off the ol’ bucket list, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Sure, it’s a bridge but it is one of the most iconic bridges in North America and gives you some of the most beautiful vantage points in New York City. The walk is about 25-30 mins long if there isn’t much pedestrian traffic it took me about 40 mins because I was marveling at the view from multiple angles being a tourist. Also, I learned to stay in your lane because cyclists don’t mess around they will honk at you and cuss at you mercilessly if you are in their dedicated lane. Unless you get cussed at by a New Yorker you haven’t had the full New York experience.

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Tuesday, I got to do things a bit differently. I started my day walking the High Line. For those who don’t know the High Line is public park/walkway giving pedestrians an elevated look at NYC’s industrial district and Westside. Originally it was railroad tracks then it was converted into greenspace.

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The first phase opened in 2009, the third and final section opened in 2014. It runs from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea to 34th Street and you also get a nice view of the Hudson River. It runs about 2.3km and I really enjoyed taking in the views and greeting fellow tourists that passed by and also dodging rain.

After completing that walk, I ended up in midtown so of course I had to check out the most tourist-friendly stuff like Times Square, Rockefeller Center, MoMA and Carnegie Hall. After that another bucket list item was about to get checked off, walking all the way through Central Park.

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To give you an idea of how big the park is, it starts at about 59th Street and when you exit at the north end of the park you are at 110th Street. In a way, I felt like I was a part of my own NYC movie moment (that was cheesy) getting to see the zoo, people eating their lunches or reading books on a bench, couples on carriage rides, friends sitting on the lawn laughing up a storm. It lived up to the boosting I kept giving it over the years.

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Once I left Central Park I was in Harlem! Walked up Malcolm X Blvd. to MLK Blvd. and saw Marcus Garvey Park. The next bucket list item was about to be checked off, seeing the Apollo Theater. Being a fan of black comedians and entertainers seeing the legendary Apollo up close was soooo cool. I will freely admit that the gentrification of Harlem was mad real but still so dope to walk through Harlem. Sorry, Bronx I didn’t have enough time for you I really was hoping to see Rucker Park and Yankee Stadium maybe next time.

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In a whirlwind of a few days I was able to give myself the New York experience I haven’t been able to obtain before. In the 1990’s I was bystander, in the 2000’s it was short trips which made my kind of fickle on the allure of NYC. This trip rekindled the love I had for this city through TV and movies when I was a kid. Home Alone 2 made me want to wander around NYC preferable without Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci chasing me down. Perhaps because no one was dictating my itinerary or maybe because I felt freer since it was spur of the moment instead of detailed. Sidenote, I ate far too much, so that deserves its own post. Whatever it was, I came, I walked, I conquered and I can finally say without hesitation… I LOVE NYC!

Walk it out,

Waynie

 

Waynie Walks the TDot: TTC Streetcar Lines – Bathurst and Spadina

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The name of the blog is ‘Waynie Walks the TDot’ and finally it looks as if some ideal walking weather may have hit Toronto therefore I must take advantage!

Last year, in an effort to be healthier, I challenged myself to do some long distance walking as I am not much of a gym person. So opted to walk TTC subway lines last summer. I walked the RT line, Finch to Union and even Kipling all the way down to Kennedy! While that was a mission it felt soooo good and it was a neat way to explore and discover the city I love!

This year, my challenge is to walk streetcar line routes! This past weekend I started with the Bathurst line and followed that with the Spadina line. All in all, it was about a 9K walk and I stopped off by the Waterfront to take in the beautiful day.

In case you may wonder if I walk for monetary gain and such, I do not, I merely do it because there is more to Toronto outside of my immediate neighbourhood so why not explore it, walk about while staying healthy in the process. Learn about places and people that are new to you!

Here are some pictures from my adventures over the weekend.

So we begin off at Bathurst Station…

The iconic Toronto landmark…Honest Ed’s!

Good ol Sneaky Dee’s on Bathurst and Queen!

Random shot of a Streetcar and CN Tower near Bathurst and King

Soldiers on Bathurst and Fleet St.

The old Tip Top Factory…now lofts…where members of my family once worked back in the day!

Fort York Armoury

Let’s Go to The EX!

Check out the view at Toronto Music Garden at Harbourfront, picturesque is an understatement.

You got to love the Tall ships you can find by the Toronto Waterfront!

HTO Park…A nice way to cool down in the summer.

Now enterting Chinatown!

As the summer progresses, I aim to do even more walks and see more of our fair city.

Walk it out people,

Waynie

Burger Week Toronto!

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For those of who love burgers, whether, beef, chicken, veggie, vegan last week (May 28-31) was the week for you! More than 50 dining establishments participated in this year’s festivities. There were two way to participate either check out single Burger Week places and get their signature Burger Week offering for $5 or head down to Fort York on Jun 1st and partake in indulging in sliders.

For myself, I did not bother with Burger Day I opted to go to establishments and try their offerings. In past years, when attempting to go to Burger Day everything tended to sell out real fast so while they may have improved it this year I chose to sit Burger Day out and go for it when I could.

In 2 days that I was able to check out places I hit up 7 locations. A few that I have frequented before such as Hey Meatball and Gangster Burger and checked out places I have never been to such as Toma Burger Addiction and Grapefruit Moon. All in all, it was cool, met some serious self-proclaimed ‘foodies’ and others who were just lovers of burgers and wanted to eat, experience and enjoy.

Gangster Burger!

I’ve been to Gangster Burger before so it was not brand new to me. The line was pretty long considering it was a Wednesday at 1pm I guess foodies mixed with people on lunch. I probably waited about 20-25 mins for my burger but, they were playing 90’s hip-hop and R&B so the time flew by while I was bouncing along to the lyrics reliving my younger days. Their feature burger was the Jesse James, in case you’re wondering all their burgers are named after legendary gangsters even El Chapo has a burger named for him.

The Jesse James was a beef patty with a Dijon glaze, southern coleslaw and with a bacon marmalade. While I enjoyed it the wait was a bit long but, I understand $5 burgers will draw a line up. It was a nice sized patty good flavours but the bun got mushy down the line. Regardless it was a good kick off!

Lisa Marie by Fidel Gastro

My first Fidel Gastro experience was at TIFF last September eating off their food trucks and they definitely try to flip the script with their toppings and flavours so it made perfect sense for them to offer the NUTELLA BURGER!

Yea, let that sink in for a minute, NUTELLA on a beef burger patty not to mention plaintain chips and a garlic tinged coconut sauce. Naturally I was skeptical about it when I first took a bite my tastebuds were weirded out for two reasons…1. Nutella and a juicy burger aren’t a natural fit and 2. The plaintain chips were like a Jedi mind trick to me because the texture and crispiness is similar to bacon so mind thought it was bacon at first. Yup, that was pretty weird but enjoyable. Keep in mind though, I have eaten the Krispy Kreme Burger and Cronut Burger in the past so this may have been right up my alley. So the consensus was once you get over the shock value of Nutella on your burger its pretty good but your tastebuds are in for a weird ride.


TOMA Burger Addiction

Okay so I will be the first to admit for my money this was probably the best burger I ate for Burger Week but not necessarily for the beef and toppings. It was because that brioche bun was AWESOME! It was oversized, it didn’t fall apart, was tasty on it own and a big T was branded into it!

The Wild Life burger had gourmet written all over it, arugula, swiss cheese, a truffle styled mayo and huge mushrooms not to mention the prime angus beef!

The downside, it wasn’t for takeout so you had to sit in the eatery and wait…and wait…and wait some more. Looking at their menu some of their burger prices were kind of steep for my liking but I can’t really knock it til I try it. This was hands down the best burger I had up until this point. I was lucky because soon after we got there the place began to create a crowd and since there was no takeout people had to wait for a booth.

The Greek

The Greek on King West had sliders available and after downing 3 burgers sliders were a welcome alternative. As the name suggests their menu consists of greek influenced foods such as souvlaki, greek salad and such. Their chuck was a mix of beef and lamb keftedes (meatballs). The pita bread was good but it did remind me of a rice cake for some reason. Simple ingredients and the sauce was tzaziki had a little kick to it was a good balance for me after eating Nutella, truffle mayo and arugula at other spots.

Morgans on the Danforth

This restaurant is located right by Greenwood station so on my first Saturday stop it was on my way so I figured sure why not. I seemed to have beat the dinner rush and had to eat-in. This restaurant had a nice family, laidback kinda vibe which was good. The burger is entitled ‘This Burger’s Got Seoul’

Brisket and beef chuck seasoned Kalbi style with their version of kimchi and a boatload of Monty Jack cheese. Good flavour and it wasn’t a challenge to eat. It was a random choice and I’m glad I got to try this one out!

Grapefruit Moon

In case you are wondering this has not been Photoshopped, there really is a sunnyside up egg on top of the fresh sausage patty and fries on the side all this for FIVE DOLLARS! The large tomato and greens seemed to mesh well with this burger. The sausage patty made sense going together with an egg to give you that oversized breakfast sandwich feel which worked for me.

It was a mission to eat due to its size but I am glad I got to experience it. In the process I was talking to some foodie hipsters who seemed genuine at first but began bragging about their eating exploits with each other and me. I also got a backhanded compliment asking if I got judged or looks from people because I was eating alone that day. That kind of tarnished the experience for me so I ate as quick as I could and got out of there.

Also, shoutout to the server who was in attendance that night. He was alone and they got slammed with a crowd due to the burgers about 15 minutes after I got there. While he was frazzled a bit he kept his composure and toughed it out.

Hey Meatball! (College Street)

My last stop for Burger Week was good ol Hey Meatball. They were offering was called ‘Big Trouble in Little Italy’, a pork patty with tomato gravy, pesto and spicy pickles.

The resto was busy but surprisingly it was more of their menu people were eating rather than the Burger Week special which is a testament to their following of people who come there for the food not jus a special.

It wasn’t a huge burger which for me was good after my previous two stops. Good flavours and I believe all their meat is local, natural and horomone-free so the meat had a different taste in a good way. Also, walking through Little Italy on a summer evening is never a bad thing!

Burger Week was a healthy mix of exploring the city, good and bad food choices and just the challenge of continuously eating at discount prices. One unique thing about Burger Week was their pairing with PayPal. There were about 8 locations that were basically giving you a free burger once you downloaded the PayPal app and checked-in with it. Once you check in an offer would appear for the location you’re at and the free burger is yours!

One place I wanted to check out but wasn’t able to was Holy Chuck which had this huge double patty burger but, with TTC subway closures it deterred me from venturing in that direction.

I look forward to next year’s Burger Week and hopefully it expands even more!

Walk it Out!

Waynie

Snapshots of Toronto at Night

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Just some pictures I have taken of places in Toronto in the nighttime. By no means am I a professional photographer so I apologize in advance if you are not impressed by my cell phone picture taking skills.

6 Reasons Why I Can’t Wait for Summer in Toronto!

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We have had a one of the most brutal winters in recent memory and up to this point it has not felt like spring has really arrived but, nonetheless I cannot wait for the summer! Toronto gets to flex its awesomeness when the warm months hit. While there are much more than 6 reasons, here is what I can come up with so far.

6. Patio Season!

Hanging out with friends, family or making new friends on a patio somewhere is a favourite pastime for most Torontonians. Nothing brings people together quite like a pint and some nachos.

5. Food Trucks, Food Trucks, Food Trucks!

When the summertime hits the food trucks will be out in full force offering up Toronto plenty of goodies all over the city. When its summertime you can actually sit outside and enjoy your food instead of staying indoors!

4. The Beach

All that work you have been putting in at the gym over these past few months is about to pay off. Whether you are at Woodbine Beach, Kew Beach, Bluffers Park or the Toronto Islands to name a few, it is time to take in some sunlight, maybe play some beach volleyball, take your pets for a stroll or just show off how awesome you look and feel. If you got some time maybe even dip in the water…I know that is just crazy talk.

3. Free Concerts

One thing I know about Toronto is that we love free concerts and I will assume that there will be no shortage of free shows! Last year I saw The Beach Boys at the CNE, Maxi Priest at David Pecaut Square, Ludacris at Dundas Square to name a few. With NXNE and Luminato among other offerings this summer I suspect we will be singing in the streets and/or parks.

2. Festivals and More Festivals!

From May to September just about every weekend is filled with at least a few festivals. While it can create traffic chaos, you will survive. It’s time to enjoy the streets and sights our city has to offer. There is pretty much something for everyone when it comes to festivals. Food, art, music, liquor/beer, dance, cultural over the summer months the world is literally at your doorstep! Some festivals I’m looking forward to aside from ones already mentioned are Toronto Carnival, Taste of the Danforth, Taste of Little Italy, Beaches Jazz Festival, can’t forget about Salsa on the St. Clair and Harbourfront Centre virtually every weekend hosts a different festival representing a different type of culture starting Canada Day Weekend. Trust me there is much, much more when it comes to festivals in Toronto it is all one Google search away to find info.

1. Random Walking and Exploring!

Well my blog is titled ‘Waynie Walks the TDot’ so obviously this would be my favourite thing. Last summer, I decided to walk all the TTC subway lines (yup I know that sounds crazy) in an effort to be healthy and get to know my city more and more. So I walked the Scarborough RT line one time, from Finch to Union and finally from Kipling all the way Kennedy! Sorry but the Sheppard line gets no love from me. And don’t worry I did these on different occasions and on city streets not on actual train tracks. It was really amazing getting to see different neighbourhoods up close and since I was walking I could just stop and take it in. From Uptown Yonge to Yorkville to the Waterfront to Bloor West Village to High Park to Korea Town to Greektown to Scarborough I got to see plenty of our city and I have a new found respect for it. For those wondering if I did this for a certain cause, no cause just because.

This summer I hope to tackle some streetcar lines, apparently the Long Branch streetcar line is the longest in North America at 35.5KM, that sounds like quite the challenge hopefully I am up to it. Not to mention random eating adventures, chilling out by the Waterfront, maybe take in some boat rides and checking out not so familiar neighbourhoods.

This city has so much to offer its citizens and tourists alike as much as we like to perhaps travel to different cities sometimes being a local tourist is not a bad thing plus it can be lighter on the wallet. If you are not a fan of driving and parking you can get TTC Day Passes or use the Toronto Bike Share Program (formerly Bixi) as an alternative just create a starting point to just walk around and explore.

The city is yours to discover so why not take a chance and who knows maybe you will uncover something you didn’t already know about Toronto. I can personally attest that each summer I learn about something I had no idea about. So let’s get cracking people well once the warm weather commences and at this rate who knows when that will be.

Walk it out,

Waynie

Random Eating Adventures in Toronto!

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This post is pretty simple especially if you love food. Just food and pictures from places you may or may not know of!

Hot Thai Noodles – Salad King (Yonge and Edward)

Salad King is never a bad choice if you’re in a Thai mood. Thailand has even granted Salad King status as authentic Thai food by their government.

Southern Carolina Pulled Pork w/ Poutine – Greenwood Smokehouse (Pape/Danforth)

Soooo many calories and sooooo much goodness. Cheat day must!

RCK Original w/Chicken – Rose City Kitchen (Spadina/Queen)

Mediterranean style food decently priced, decently portioned and be warned they have Falafel Poutine too!

BBQ Mac and Cheese Poutine – Smokes Poutinerie (Bathurst/Queen)

BBQ Chicken, Bacon, Mac and Cheese in a poutine, what more do you need!

Sriracha Flavoured Pringles – They may be found at specialty confectionary stores

This caught my eye and I said I needed to try that out. I got to say it was a good call on my part! Flavour wise to me it tastes like BBQ mixed with chili powder and salt and vinegar. Thumbs up but it is subjective since it is really reliant upon your palette.

That’s about it for now

Waynie

 

From Toronto to Cartagena, Adventures in Colombia

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Now when you think of Colombia what comes to mind? Maybe cocaine, drug lords, violence and underdeveloped areas is what stereotypes most of us may think of. Newsflash, forget what you may have heard because when I went to Colombia it was AWESOME! This time Waynie Walks the Cartagena!

Okay so I did not get to venture throughout the whole country but, I was able to visit Cartagena back in February with some family and friends and it was quite the unforgettable experience. It was a quick 4 day trip but I wish it could have lasted a lifetime.

We were lucky enough to stay in a 5 floor villa which overlooked both the beach on one side and the city on the other side. The sunset was just mesmerizing and made me forget about the sub-zero temperatures back home in Toronto. This ladies and gents was a little slice of heaven. When the sun goes down the nightlife picks up! In Cartagena, if you are seeking restaurants, bars and clubs well it is all here for you inside the Walled City. For tourists, it is recommended you stay inside the Walled City, which is a rock fortress that in encases this part of Cartagena because it has heavy police on duty and is more secure in general.

The nightlife in Cartagena has everything from clubs specializing in Latin music and EDM to bars that really love to play David Guetta or play salsa to places where men and women alike can explore extra-curricular activities. Restaurants range from high end bistros to American style food or pizza to authentic Colombian food. Believe me when I say your taste buds will not be disappointed.

Our group was lucky enough to have a concierge service which helped book our accommodations and plan some our days while giving us strong insight about customs in Cartagena and how to not get ripped off. So we took advantage and rented a speedboat to show us the different islands and beaches along the Caribbean Sea. For most of us it was our first time on a speedboat and it was pretty cool once you get over the fact that you feel you are going to fall out of the boat pretty much every 30 seconds. The surrounding islands were beautiful while others just looked deserted nonetheless amazing and we went on a beach Playa Del Blanca which apparently you can only get there by boat.

Breathtaking views, hot sun, bright blue water along with good company you cannot beat that. Naturally, we had to try some fresh food on our journey which included fresh crab meat served in the crab’s shell and eating in the water with the table in the water and a fresh red snapper in front of us and I am talking about eyes and teeth still in it fresh! So let’s just say I opted for the veggie option.

Whether you are single, with someone or whatever the case may be, Cartagena and Colombia has something for you! Due to the stigma of the stereotypes placed upon Colombia, Cartagena tries to market itself as southern Caribbean and uses being on the coast of the Caribbean Sea as a big selling point. If you want to rent a house inside of the city or do an all-inclusive the choice is yours I would suggest using a concierge service if you are not comfortable with doing these decisions on your own.

Aside from brushing up on your Spanish do keep in mind that there is some poverty in Colombia so people on the streets will try to sell you items and services repeatedly. If you are not interested, do not strike up a conversation with them as it will encourage more attention from other people trying to sell you things. Just simply, wave your hand as to mean “no” and say “Gracias”.

If in case you might have been wondering if I was representing Toronto while in Colombia I absolutely did bring Toronto with me. I was wearing a 1 Love T.O Roots shirt with a Canadian flag which attracted conversation from other Canadians visiting and I even wore a custom shirt I designed with a Scarborough flag on it. Even when I am on vacation Toronto is with me!

This trip was a reminder that you cannot believe everything you hear about a place. Sometimes you got to go out and discover it yourself. While this was surely a once in a lifetime trip I hope to go back again and next time maybe I will come armed with some Spanish speaking skills.

Regards,

Waynie