The Insta-Home Challenge: Toronto

by Angela on June 7, 2014 · 11 comments

At Tavern by Trevor, on Spadina & Richmond

Oh, Canada!

The Hollicks have gone international. That’s right — we broke out our passports and traversed north of the border into Canadian territory, for almost two months of downtown Toronto city living. We left Atlanta on our first-ever drive-through-the-night expedition, in the hopes that Eva would sleep at her regular bedtime in the car and not scream bloody murder for hours (cuz that’s how she do). Mike drove overnight for most of those 16 hours and we stopped through Niagara Falls in the morning.  I was too bleary-eyed with a fussy Eva in the car to venture out to check out the falls. At least the boys got their sog on from the mist.  Yeah, I just said “got their sog on.”

For seven weeks, we are a family of urbanites.  Wheeeee! What a treat it is to stay in a city for more than a month. It’s been a while since we’ve lived in a real-deal downtown, and I gotta say … it’s nice to not have to drive everywhere. Our minivan has been sitting pretty in our parking garage while we walk miles (oh, sorry, kilometres) around the Downtown Core each day.

We found our place via Airbnb — a 2 bed/2 bath condo on the 28th floor of a high-rise complex called Cityplace, near the waterfront in downtown Toronto.

Photoshopped billboard — did I fool you?

Our digs are nice and convenient, with a take-out sushi place, Subway, dry cleaners, and 24-hour grocery on the ground level.

Our host Shaun set us up with some bottled water and cookies upon arrival, and had the place stocked with soaps, shampoo, detergents, and paper products. Super nice! He even helped us move our stuff in, a process that’s usually a bear when living in an apartment building (lots of doors, elevators and hallways for the luggage to travel, from car to apartment door). But Shaun made it pretty seamless. Total living area is a tad under 1100 square feet, and the condo is simply furnished with some neutral, modern pieces. The sunlight streaming through the windows sort of blew out my initial photos below.

The views from our floor-to-ceiling windows are expansive.

To the southwest, we can see water and railyards …

Due south, we see Lake Ontario and the lush Toronto Islands out yonder.

We have eyes on a kid’s transportation trifecta — commuter trains, down below…

… ships and sailboats in the water, as well as a landing strip to watch planes takeoff and touch down on Toronto Island’s Pearson Airport.

From on our balcony, we can see the Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play, and catch glimpses of the CN Tower – the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere.

Our night views are outstanding!

Upon entering our abode, you see a nook/den to your left that actually has a spare bed. We use it for storage, mostly. At first it was a chaotic mess as we tried to organize our life the first few days.

It’s amazing how much more calm I feel, now that it’s cleaned up. Too bad we have no overnight guests in this city — kind of a waste of bedspace!

The two bedrooms were made up minimally for us. Here’s the initial shot of Max’s room, then the “after” when all his toys and gear have taken over.

The master bedroom is slightly larger but somehow feels smaller and darker, which is just fine, for Eva’s sleeping sake.

Once the kids’ toys invaded the living room, it actually brightened up the main space. I had requested that a desk and chair be brought in, and Shaun had one waiting for us in Max’s room. I moved it out into the living room so that I could access it easily.

Mike moved the coffee table off to the side so the kids would have more room to romp around.

One of the best features in the whole place is our Samsung flat-screen TV. It’s probably the largest and nicest one we’ve had on tour to date — it’s been pretty sweet, watching the NBA playoffs on it for the past few weeks!

People always ask us, “Does it feel weird to live in a strange place every month?” To that end, we always say that Max’s toys always enliven our temporary home, and it makes each new place familiar to us.

Bath toys are our constant, too … it makes evening bath time all the more ritualistic, no matter what city we’re in.

Max has trouble with liquid soap pumps — he doesn’t have the coordination just yet to use the free-standing dispensers, as they just topple over. So I got him these small soaps shaped like donuts from a gift store on Queen Street, and they’ve been perfectly-sized for his little-guy hands.

Our kitchen and dining area is pretty compact. The table is bar-height, and placed flush against the kitchen counter.

The galley kitchen’s a bit tight, but we make do.

Max has gotten into the habit of “helping” his dad cook. He drags one of the chairs right up so he can be part of the meal magic.

We’ve even settled into a (gasp!) routine. A day in the life of the Toronto Hollicks:

We all get up by 8 am, have breakfast, then I stroll Max the 1.3 km (otherwise known as 0.8 miles) to Kinder College on Richmond Street, where he goes to preschool until about 3 pm; then I head to a hot yoga class at Yoga Tree by 10 am; afterwards I grab lunch and do some work at one of the many coffee places in the Downtown Core/Entertainment District before I go back to our apartment to relieve Mike (who has been with Eva the whole time), so he can head to his yoga class at 1:30 pm. After his class, he picks Max back up from Kinder College and the rest of the afternoon is up for grabs — sometimes we’ll all play, go swimming, explore or run errands). We eat dinner together by 6 pm, and Mike heads to the Princess of Wales Theatre for work by 6:45 pm. His commute is just a 10 minute walk!

The amenities in our building are sick. We’ve got an indoor pool and hot tub, basketball courts, and even a salon/spa on the second floor where Mike and Max got their hair cut the first week.

Max and Eva have swim lessons every Sunday morning (Max is in love with his swim instructor Anjeli), and I take a free Tabata training class every Saturday morning in the gym.

Often, we host playdates at our pool. Below, Hero, Nina, Ethan and my post-pregnancy boobs join us for an afternoon.

Photo by Amy Cordileone

I am convinced that one day Eva and Ethan will date, and I’ll get to pull out these photos, just to prove my clairvoyance.

 Photo by Amy Cordileone

Toronto is a city under major construction, all the time, everywhere. I read somewhere that there are more cranes in Toronto than any other city in North America. I have never seen anything quite like this rush to throw up as many condominium mid- and high-rises before!

Our building is constantly under some sort of renovation or maintenance as well, whether it be redoing the lobby floors, painting the walls, power washing the garage, or window washing, like this below. Max furiously waved to the guy, who tried his best to not look at  us.

Toronto is diverse and cosmopolitan — like the mild-mannered little brother to New York, but certainly without the edge. There is a general sense of generic simplicity mixed with aloofness with Canadians, though. The local woman who cut my hair the other day said, “Canadians are polite, but not nice. They’ll apologize profusely but not mean one word.”

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

ANGELIQUE June 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm



Angela June 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm

We love YOUR style, Angelique! Hearing from you always make us smile 🙂


steve m June 8, 2014 at 10:54 pm

check out the top of the cn tower – one of my kids favorite memories of our weeklong stay in toronto last year


Angela June 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

We live a couple blocks away from the CN Tower – we will definitely make a trip up! Thanks Steve!


Kathleen June 9, 2014 at 9:13 am

Hi there! It’s amazing reading about all your wonderful travel tips and stories. My family saw the show last night and now cannot stop talking about the costumes and songs. It’s safe to say that my kids are obsessed with the show and the actors. What a fun blog! We look forward to reading about your adventures down the line. Eva is a cutie pie and Max is a handsome fellow. Thanks for a terrific time at the theatre,
Kathy Levine


Angela June 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Kathy, thanks for your comment — we are so glad you enjoyed the show. We are so proud to be a part of it too. Drop us a line anytime!


Lauren June 9, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Enjoy Toronto! If you get a chance to check out Niagara-on-the-Lake, do so! Beautiful area, lots of history. It’s (almost) a weekly excursion for my husband and I – and the only place in Ontario with Cow’s Ice Cream.


Angela June 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Thanks Lauren! We sadly just have one week left here until we shove off to Washington DC. We love your recommendation — history and ice cream, two of Mike’s favorite things 🙂 We will try to hit Niagara-on-the-Lake!


Lauren June 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm

**Sniff Sniff** I lived in DC 4 years before moving to Toronto in 2012. Such an awesome city this time of year. Lots of culture and great restaurants! Enjoy!


Janeen June 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hey Hollicks, when do you hit Baltimore next?


Angela June 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Janeen, we’re not sure when or if the tour will be hitting Baltimore. However, Lion King will be playing at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC from June 16 – Aug 17! See us there!


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