Quest to Caribana 2023 - A Tourist in Toronto


12243636482?profile=RESIZE_584xAshleigh (center) Cheyenne and Anaya join new found friends at Caribana

By: Ashleigh Fields

Nobody told yall I did Caribana in heels? Yes, honey! I was walking and talking to the people with ease. It was my very first time going to a Caribbean festival or anything of the sort, so I too did not know what to expect.

I remember seeing Tonya from Real Housewives of Atlanta bring her friends there for a girls trip and I thought that it would be so much fun. It was! I visited Toronto with my two friends Anaya and Cheyenne and we took the city by storm.

12243709867?profile=RESIZE_584xIt was a six hour ride from Cleveland up to the “six” as Drake affectionately refers to the Canadian city. As we crossed the border, visuals from his album “Views” crossed my mind. The buildings were just as tall, the streets were clean and the food was immaculate.

Although we were only there for a full 24 hours I got the full scope of the active Caribbean pulse vibrating through the town. Our first and only stop at Caribana was the parade.

Never had I seen more intricate costumes with vibrant colors, carefully crafted beading and seamless waist lines. The outfits were giving! People were marching to the beat of their country which evoked a type of pride most Black people from the U.S. are not familiar with.

Carnival and any event that resembles it celebrates independence! The Caribbean islands that we know and love each went through a stint of colonization which many of them fought tirelessly to be released from in order to become a self-governed nation.12243631068?profile=RESIZE_584x

As people strutted through the Princes’ Gates at Exhibition Place in Toronto you could feel the spirit of freedom in the air. Some chose to take it all in while wearing a t-shirt and shirts and others purchased iridescent custom made costumes. My friends and I did the best we could with a last minute Amazon order only to find a head piece and a crystal bra.

When making our way through the parade, we got too close to the moving stages and were called out a few times for being “stormers” also known as the underdressed people in the crowd. They wanted us to move away from their trucks which featured groups of dancers and performers.

We took note of the shortcoming and promised to take more time to prepare next year by possibly ordering the $300 plus feather filled outfits offered on Etsy in years to come. While maneuvering through the crowd we took a ton of pictures with festive friends who welcomed us into this niche world of celebrations occurring across the world to honor Caribbean islands.

Every kind of flag you could think of was being flung with passion. Green and gold for Jamaica, blue and yellow for Barbados, red and black for Trinidad and Tobago amongst many more. In the case that you forgot yours at home, street vendors were happily selling a small bandana with a replica for each country.

12243710078?profile=RESIZE_400xThe display of artwork was spectacular. On the side of one of the trucks was a large painting of Muhammad Ali with his famous quote, “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong.”

This message and plenty more proved just how welcoming the Caribana environment could be. Our amazingly long foot journey included sightseeing and picture taking amidst so much fun.

Once we got tired and our feet grew increasingly sore, we decided to stop for something to eat.

Our first choice was the Petty Cash social house. It was a little ways away from the parade and we walked about a mile into downtown to get away from the crowds to find a resting point. After we ordered waters to drink and took a glance at the menu we looked up to see supermodel Cindy Crawford seated one booth over. I was in awe of her beauty, composure and the mere fact that she travels without a body guard. I wanted a picture so bad, but my friend said it was better to be respectful and let her eat in peace.

I still wish we got some form of documentation to prove we were dining with a top-tier celebrity but I guess as long as my memory works fine it serves the same purpose.

Displeased by the service at this establishment, my friends suggested we turn back to this crowded Jamaican restaurant a few blocks away. And let me tell you this was one of the best decisions of the trip. We crept inside Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen escorted by a waitress with a beautiful blonde afro (that I also did not capture a picture of) to be seated on their outdoor patio.                                                                                                        (Asleigh, Cheyenne and Anaya)

We ate and laughed in nature’s oasis surrounded by melanted Black people. I of course opted for the jerk chicken, cabbage and rice which was absolutely immaculate. It had the perfect amount of seasoning and spice.

After eating, we purchased an uber to head to our hotel in Mississauga. Let me tell you, we slept so good. The next morning we woke up, packed our bags and headed back to Cleveland. But not before stopping at Niagara Falls. Another must see on any visit to Canada.

It was so big, the rushing water was crystal clear and the drop from the waterfall was massive. I can definitely see why it’s one of the world’s seven wonders. All in all it was an amazing trip from start to finish. And I thank my friend Anaya for making it all happen. I am beyond excited to plan my next trip back.12243710662?profile=RESIZE_710x