by RYAN BOLTON

It’s still crystal clear: my first trip to Toronto with my late grandfather.

It was an early rise on a sun-drenched summer day. I was probably 12-years-old or so and I was going to Toronto. A place I had big hopes for, although knew virtually nothing about. As my grandparents were based out of Niagara Falls, we drove to St. Catherines and then ferried across the lake to Toronto.

I still remember it being before dawn, around 5:30 a.m., as we left shore on this then-mammoth ferry. It was liberating; a unique passage to this city filled with skyscraping buildings and bright lights. A place that was home to one specific site I needed to see as a young boy. I was on an adventure with my grandfather, a prestigious medical doctor, a man I admired from a young age.

I vividly remember the cool morning air and a low-hanging mist as we traveled across the lake. When we arrived, a full day laid ahead of us. Although I don’t recall the day with perfect recall, the memories are still quite fresh as I walk down the same streets I did then. I remember we walked far up Yonge Street and I was enthralled by all the small shops that carried knick-knacks and such. I was particularly enamored by the knock-off gold watches for some reason. We, in typical tourist fashion, made our way up the CN Tower and breathed in the intoxicating view in front of us. (I still haven’t been back up that tower since. Oh well.)

As we continued forth, there was one place that we needed to see. As a young hockey player (and typical Canadian), I needed to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame. I needed to. And as we strolled the downtown streets, my neck craning skywards, my grandpa made it seem as if we were lost. He played it up that we had seen certain buildings before, but couldn’t figure out where the Hockey Hall of Fame was. Faux bewildered, he even asked passerby on numerous occasions. And as we continued to walk, me in complete disarray, we stumbled into a building to get a coffee. (I remember going to the shop and it being an espresso bar. I hadn’t the faintest idea what this was. When explained, I thought I could impress my grandpa by getting one. He asked a couple times if I was sure, and to up the ante, I ordered a double-espresso for the both of us. I think I took one sip and my grandpa laughed at my contorted face.) But across the hall from the coffee shop, a large sign beamed: “The Hockey Hall of Fame.”

We had made it.

Of course he knew where we were the whole time. But at that point, it felt serendipitous. And as I reflect when I walk down Toronto’s streets every day, passing the harbourfront, espresso shops, CN Tower, and occasionally the Hockey Hall of Fame, I think back fondly of that first trip to Toronto with my grandpa. I’m just never steeping foot in Lake Ontario.

Written by Ryan Bolton

Ryan is a Toronto-based writer and photographer that likes to break the rules. His work has taken him around the world to do what he truly loves—storytelling. And drinking cold beer.