What I love about traveling to other countries is seeing how you're welcomed, a nice airport, courteous help, and transportation options. As you arrive at Pearson airport on the outskirts of Toronto, you're greeted with complimentary luggage carts and WiFi courtesy of CIBC bank.
Normally I would take a car service into the Metropolitan area, usually around $55 US, but I was suggested to take the UP Train Rapid Expess right to the hotel I was being hosted by the Delta Toronto and Convention Center in just 20 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes and also free WiFi. And the price, $9 US.
At the Delta Hotel, we had access to the executive lounge on the 46 floor, where they served full breakfast in the morning and an array of hor'dorves and drinks in the evening all while enjoying the city scape which included the Roger Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays and the CN Tower. The view also included planes landing and taking off at the in Bill Bishop City Airport (more on Porter later).
For the last 18 years, I have been attending the Toronto International Film Festival in many capacities, whether visiting the celebrity gift lounges, attending some movie premieres and celebrity sighting it sure has changed from its intimate setting. For the last few years our TIFF stops have included TIFF founder's luncheon at Barberian's Steak House, the Sony Classics dinner at Creme Brasserie in Yorkville and visits to the Tastemakers Lounge to pick up a bag of goodies that this year even included our favorite Krispy Kreme donuts.
Opening night at the festival, we attended as guest of TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall to see the highly hyped shoot out fest, Magnificent Seven, starting Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke at the Roy Thomson Hall. To our surprise, many empty seats, not the case in prior opening nights. We skipped the after party to head up to Opus in the Yorkville area for dinner and late night whisky. Opus has been a around for years attracting many celebrities including Will Smith, Steven Spielberg and the late Robin Williams.
Following day, the last minute Leo DiCaprio world premiere of Before the Flood, we saw many Miami friend's that were interviewed for the movie including Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, developer Scott Robins and movie producer Brett Ratner. An unusual Leo took extra time to greet fans and sign autographs, which seemed very nice and old Hollywood like.
Lunch came around and we were guest to Portuguese restaurant Flor de Sal, where we enjoyed sautéed brussels sprout leaves, shallots, double smoked bacon & thyme and Cristina’s Feijoada, smoked pork & bean stew with lemon thyme. Owner Cristina de Costa also sent a delicious dessert platter of strawberries, warm green peppercorn sauce, and house made vanilla ice cream. Yum!
TIFF has become an avenue of brand placements including McDonald's handing out free McCafe lattes, models handing out samples of Masque Bar, green tea sheet mask, a hot pink, Energizer bunny mascot posing with film fans on King Street, Express activation, double decked shipping containers, transformed into fan observations decks over the red carpet for the select few sponsored by Bell, Loreal and RBC bank. Celebrity gifting suites giving B and C list celebrities an array of freebies including Nespresso machines, McGregor Weekender socks, Sorel boots, even Barilla pasta. Definitely didn't go hungry.
If you get tired of TIFF, you always have TUFF, Toronto Urban Film Festival which celebrated it's 10th year. The independent spinoff festival consisting of 87, one minute films and viewed in the city's digital subway screens throughout the city with an audience of a million daily commuters.
One of our favorite events we attended was the Hollywood North photo exhibit by Central Image Agency at the Steam Whistle Brewing in the Toronto Entertainment District. The exhibit included images from TIFF celebrity scene from years past with images of Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Mick Jagger, Madonna, and many more. The night included Canadian comfort food staples poutine with cheese curds and gravy, Canadian bacon and free flowing Steam Whistle Pilsner. A percentage of the images sold benefitted Sick Kids Foundation and presented by our friends at the The Hollywood Minute.
The annual Sony Classics dinner hosted by execs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, brings out the Oscar contending movie stars, this year we caught up with Pedro Almodovar's stars Rossy de Palma and Penelope Cruz clone, Adriana Ungarte.
At the Soho House Toronto, Film Florida and the Miami Film Festival, hosted the It's So Miami mixer celebrating Miami-made movie Moonlighting directed by Barry Jenkins. MFF director Jaie Laplante, Graham Winick, and Sandy Lighterman also in attendance.
On board the Canadian built Bombardier turboprop airplane flying over Niagra Falls at 23,000 ft, beautiful stewardess, pulled from a 70's era, wearing vintage aviation hats, (we're sure available at Shapoh) served hot Starbucks coffee and premium treats like Martin's chips and gluten-free Good for You banana, chocolate chip bread. A delightful experience bringing you back when smiles, hello's and thank you's were the norm.