11 days spent in Toronto has absolutely changed my life for the better. The following is a recap of the very best vegan moments!

I had originally planned to visit Toronto for my first time strictly for the Spravka24.info Food Fest on August 13th and visit an ol buddy Alex. Because I am self-employed and don’t have much holding me down in Chicago- when my friend Dana informed me that was going to do a street blockade the week BEFORE the food fest, I knew I had to extend my trip. 11 days sounded amazing to me. Plenty of time to explore and get a true taste of the city! AND stand up for animal rights with a group of new friends!
Packed up my Pink Mobile (yes, I have a Pink Saturn) on Thurs August 4th, 2016 and headed out to pick up my activist friends of Direct Action Everywhere Chicago who would be joining me on this journey. 3 new friends- Eva Hamer, Mauricio Herrera, and Mathilde Dorbessan. Our first stop would be Ann Arbor, Michigan for a pit stop before crossing the border into Canada. Ann Arbor’s most popular vegan restaurant The Lunch Room was calling our names!
From Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan!

From Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan!

ROADTRIP!!! Me, Mauricio, Eva, and Mathilde en route to Ann Arbor and then Toronto!

ROADTRIP!!! Me, Mauricio, Eva, and Mathilde en route to Ann Arbor and then Toronto!

PINK MOBILE & friends!

PINK MOBILE & friends!

We arrived at The Lunch Room with an APPETITE. I treated myself to the Pad Thai and Vanilla Almond cupcake. I enjoyed sitting outside in the summer sun and soaking up the great Michigan vibes. We also had a chance to cross paths with the other Chicago car of activists headed up to Toronto for the street blockade. That car included Kelsey Atkinson, Dana Brewbaker, and Evelyn Luviano.

Pad Thai at Lunch Room, Ann Arbor

Pad Thai at Lunch Room, Ann Arbor

Vanilla Almond cupcake.

Vanilla Almond cupcake.

INSIDE a Vanilla Almond cupcake :)

INSIDE a Vanilla Almond cupcake 🙂

 

The Lunch Room staff was SO friendly. In fact, when I mentioned at the table I was in need of some maple syrup for breakfast time in Toronto- James our server slyly slipped a side serving TOGO of maple syrup onto our table. “What? You said you needed maple syrup!” Then we all had to chat about the endless possibilities of maple syrup in Canada. Mmmm ~ Maple Syrup > Agave.

We finished up, hit the road and crossed the bridge over into Canada! This was my first time and I’m thankful everything went okay when crossing the border. Some Chicago friends of mine had shared stories of how the border cross did NOT go so well for them. For us it was a breeze and we arrived at our “rental house” in Riverdale, Toronto in the late evening. By that evening I had learned so so much from my new friends. We had discussions of book clubs, raw veganism, GMOs, religion, and death. Doesn’t get any deeper than that folks! And strong bonds were made that day!
Bridge to Canada- we made it!

Bridge to Canada- we made it!

 

“Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re trying to change the world”
Friday was off to an excellent start with a short trip over to Green Earth restaurant to meet with Tom Tkach, organizer of Direct Action Everywhere Toronto. He was kind enough to organize our housing situation for the weekend and to take some of his time to meet with us for lunch before the big protest on Saturday. Tom has been a DXE organizer for a year now and he was BORN to do this job! He has excellent leadership skills, big beautiful eyes, and a charming partner, Rob Bujold. Tom gave us a briefing of what we could expect Saturday at the protest- and oh man this was getting me anxious, nervous, and excited all at once! I had never ever been involved with a protest of this magnitude! The plan was to block off an entire street during rush hour on a Saturday, march into the streets with our animal rights signs, and into a local mall. Quite a lengthy protest with a magnitude of animal rights activists.
Green Earth Spravka24.info Cuisine

Green Earth Spravka24.info Cuisine

Go Veg, Be Green, Save the Planet!!!

Go Veg, Be Green, Save the Planet!!!

All this talk once again worked up our appetites- and all 8 of us pigged out when our delicious meals arrived. I had a veggie burrito and poutine fries. I LOVED Green Earth! And I must admit what I loved most was the literature they have available at the counter. All vegan lit informing what meat does to the human body and environment. Even Direct Action Everywhere had its own literature pile to be shared with the public! This is amazing to see because in Chicago not a single vegan restaurant that I know of has ever supported Direct Action Everywhere. A lot of people view the organization as “controversial.” Yet in Canada, activism is not so “taboo,” and it turns out there are a LOT of supporters of DXE! I now view activism as the moral baseline. DXE has the goal of turning vegetarians into vegans- and vegans into activists. Simple as that.

Dana Brewbaker, activist, and her delicious poutine fries!

Dana Brewbaker, activist, and her delicious poutine fries!

Veggie burrito and poutine fries for myself!

Veggie burrito and poutine fries for myself!

 

We finished up at Green Earth and headed out on a very long walk into the heart of downtown Toronto. Friday was designated as our exploration day. All of the activists who joined me on the trip for the protest would be leaving by Tues morning- but I would be staying another 6 days longer than them. So Friday was yet another great day to bond with them and site-see. First stop – CN Tower! We chose to not pay the money to go up to the top, but rather take a selfie at the bottom!

CN Tower with friends & Ashton the amazing doggie!

CN Tower with friends & Ashton the amazing doggie!

 

Next stop: APIECALYPSE NOW PIZZA!
APIECALYPSE is absolutely mouth watering for “comfort food vegans”- which all 8 of us most definitely are! Everyone ordered a slice except for me… I ordered a donut. I did get to try one of my friends’ “Big Mac” slices though, and man it makes me question all my other choices of pizza ever. What I loved most about APIECALYPSE was the punk music and creative pizza options. Each pizza slice is SO unique and has names like “The Pig Destroyer Destroyer” and “Pepperphony”. Gotta love it!
APIECALYPSE NOW PIZZA!

APIECALYPSE NOW PIZZA!

DONUT TIME

DONUT TIME

BIG MAC PIZZA MMMM

BIG MAC PIZZA MMMM

 

Next we strolled through Christie Pits Park and digested our defiant vegan meals, played with a parakeet from South America, and strolled around the neighborhoods until sundown. Some friends went out that evening for a drink. I knew I had to save my energy for the big protest the next day.

Eva and her new friend.

Eva and her new friend.

 

“Direct Action Everywhere: a LOVE based activist movement.”
Ready for the protest!

Ready for the protest!

 

Saturday came and we were all prepared to meet in the Peace Garden downtown at noon before the protest. There were SO many activists gathered around in red DXE shirts it was overwhelming. As it turns out there were 120 activists who showed that day.

Tom Tkach, our organizer, prepped all 120 of us with help from his megaphone before we started the official march into the streets. Reminding us that this is a PEACEFUL movement – absolutely no violence allowed. And if a stranger were to touch you or get violent with you in any way you voice “do not touch me, that’s assault.” I really appreciated his reminder how all of us were once meat eaters, all of us had once been in these peoples’ shoes. To absolutely exercise compassion at all times. And remember that it’s about the animals- not our ego.
Tom Tkach of Direct Action Everywhere Toronto.

Tom Tkach of Direct Action Everywhere Toronto.

 

With that we took to the streets! We blocked off a major intersection downtown with motorcycle back up, drums beating loud from the activists, and voices roaring in our chant “No excuses let the animals LIVE!” The cars of course were furious with sporadic honking. But none of the cars dare cross our paths. In that moment time stood still and we truly DID have a voice for the animals. Some activists even ran out to these cars to hand them literature on veganism. I have never seen such an organized, peaceful and effective protest in all of my life. I shouted until my throat was warning me to stop. I gave it all I could in our chant- and was so excited to see we were moving! We moved from the intersection into the streets and continued the chant and leafleting to passing cars. And then into the local mall, Eaton Centre. We stopped in front of Forever 21 and continued the chant. All eyes and ears were on us. Our voices were heard for the animals!

Street blockade on University Ave downtown Toronto

Street blockade on University Ave downtown Toronto

Protest inside of the Eaton Center Mall

Protest inside of the Eaton Center Mall

Protest inside of the Eaton Center Mall

Protest inside of the Eaton Center Mall

 

After the mall we headed back into the park and then concluded a quite long and highly effective protest. We regrouped and recapped- and headed out for lunch! About 40 activists showed up at Cosmic Treats in Kensington Market for lunch at the same time, and let’s just say those servers weren’t too happy! But we had an amazing lunch and a great time getting to know other activists of Toronto. Then over to the park across from Cosmic Treats for the drum circle and hang out time. It was there that I met my current partner, Carlos Cartaxo! He was sitting there in the park, asked me to join and sit with him and I did. We’ve been inseparable ever since!

Drum circle in the Kensington Market park. My first time in a drum circle!

Drum circle in the Kensington Market park. My first time in a drum circle!

 

Sunday was a big big day. The 5 of us went out to Happily Ever Esther’s Farm Sanctuary to volunteer! It was nice, bright and sunny out that day- and we even got to meet ! Also while piling branches and clearing fields we saved a nest of abandoned baby birds that were in the middle of the branch pile! The babies were taken immediately to emergency care nearby.
Volunteering at Happily Ever Esther's Farm Sanctuary!

Volunteering at Happily Ever Esther’s Farm Sanctuary!

Esther the Wonder Pig

Esther the Wonder Pig

FREE LAMBS!!!

FREE LAMBS!!!

 

After working up an appetite volunteering we headed to the highly anticipated location of Doomie’s! I have seen so many pictures online of this mouthwatering vegan restaurant and I was most excited for this experience. Doomie’s is famous for making every day comfort food seem “non vegan.” The joke is to bring one of your omnivore friends there and see if THEY can tell the difference. It’s so close to the real deal it’s freaky. Although I’m sure all of the  art on the wall would give it away to that omnivore friend.

DOOMIES!

DOOMIES!

Doomie's Big Mac and Animal Fries!

Doomie’s Big Mac and Animal Fries!

Spravka24.info Sidekick art plastered all over Doomies. Love it.

Spravka24.info Sidekick art plastered all over Doomies. Love it.

 

To work off the insane amount of calories we just consumed (I blame the ‘Big Mac’) – we then headed to Cherry St Beach to dance the night away. Best beach dance party I’ve ever been to! So chill.

Monday was yet another adventure. We all headed out to Niagara Falls for our very first time! And we had the very best tour guide for our hike around the Niagara Gorge when we arrived – vegan YouTube artist and full time activist John Sakars. It was a great bonding day with John and my new friends from Chicago, and one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on. Soaring rapids to our left and lush greenery in every direction the path led. John was kind enough to pack a lot of fruit which he generously shared with us underprepared folk! I even forgot to bring a water bottle! We had a fruit break and everyone dipped into the more calm waters we found- except for me.. I took pictures!
Hiking the Niagara Gorge!

Hiking the Niagara Gorge!

Glorious hike with friends and Ashton the doggie!

Glorious hike with friends and Ashton the doggie!

Friends went in for a dip!

Friends went in for a dip!

 

After our 2 hour hike we headed to the local grocery store to stock up on all our vegan needs for a picnic right in front of Niagara Falls. My oh my did we PIG OUT. Niagara Falls was everything I had hoped for and more. EXCEPT for the ziplining – I had hoped to do that but when we looked at the line it clearly wasn’t worth it. The line is against the edge of earth leading down to the falls rather than going across the water to get a beautiful view of the falls. John knew this area like the back of his hand and had been to Niagara Falls so many times- yet was pleased to be our tour guide the entire time! Best tour guide ever! So patient and informative we all had such a great time.

#whatveganseat ! Perfect vegan picnic by the Falls!

#whatveganseat !
Perfect vegan picnic by the Falls!

Niagara Falls :)

Niagara Falls 🙂

 

I could continue about the next week of my beautiful journey in Toronto (including my experience of the awesome Spravka24.info Food Fest on August 13th) but I believe our experience of Niagara Falls is a perfect way to end it. Plus all of my friends had left the next morning and I then journeyed myself to my friend Alex’s place in West Toronto. Where I would stay for the remainder of my visit. I fell madly in love with West Toronto. Yoga, vegan restaurants, vintage shops and parks galore in West Toronto!

Overall, Toronto taught me how much veganism truly is on the rise as a movement. I’ve never seen a city so ACCEPTING of such a movement. From my viewpoint, the Midwest in the USA is definitely not as accepting as Toronto is. This may not be quantifiable or easily explained, but I urge you to visit the two cities and tell me which one you think is more “vegan friendly.” I did a little research thanks to trusty ol’ Google and it looks like there are over 80 vegan friendly restaurant options in Toronto- a lot of which are FULLY vegan. Chicago has about half that amount.
This Toronto trip also taught me how important community is. To go in groups is better than to go alone- when volunteering, protesting and enjoying bomb ass vegan food. It also taught me how EASY it is living with fellow activists- so peaceful! It is this trip that turned me from a “solo female traveler” to a TAKEN female traveler. A gal who has found her community. A gal who will continue to exercise love. A gal who will always wander but will never get lost.
FREEDOM FOR ALL- JUSTICE FOR THE ANIMALS!

FREEDOM FOR ALL- JUSTICE FOR THE ANIMALS!

UNTIL EVERY ANIMAL IS FREE. 🌱✌🏽️
2 Comments
  1. Jenn 2 years ago

    I love that there are so many places in Toronto now! When I went to school there, there were only a handful.

    • Author
      Maria Kelly 2 years ago

      SO many! I’m thankful to now live walking distance to many, in West Toronto! 🙂

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