Exploring the cold cities during spring break


Niagara Falls is something you shouldn't miss when visiting Toronto. (photo provided by author)

Niagara Falls is something you shouldn’t miss when visiting Toronto. (photo provided by author)

Despite everyone else’s travels, my destination for spring break was not the sunny beach in Cancún or Miami; I was brave enough to face the cold in New York City and Toronto.

This was my fourth visit to New York during my time as an exchange student at UConn. However, this city never gets old, and it was especially cool to explore the “Big Apple” with one of my friends who visited me from home in Germany. We stayed in an Airbnb in one of Brooklyn’s historic districts, Bedford-Stuyvesant, where we discovered a nice restaurant in the neighborhood called Peaches HotHouse. They mainly serve Southern comfort food, so I tried the shrimp and grits, which was something I’ve never eaten before and differs a lot from  German cuisine.

Another restaurant I highly recommend is Barn Joo at Union Square. They do a modern take on Korean food. The location, as well as the quality and arranging of the food, are amazing. Dinner is a little bit more on the pricy side, but if you go there for brunch or lunch, you get a lot of great food for a decent price and their truffle-garlic fries are to die for.

We spent a lot of time around Union Square, since there are a lot of great outlets nearby.  One of my personal favorite shops is a ceramic shop called Fish’s Eddy. They sell beautiful dishware with fun prints.

One of my absolute favorite places in New York is Chelsea Market, not only because of the amazing street food they serve (they even have Berlin Currywurst), but I also love the industrial design of the building and the unique shops. One of them is Artists and Fleas, a must-visit if you’re into handcrafted goods and want to find a unique gift. There are three locations in New York and I’ve been to all of them, but my favorite was the one in Williamsburg because I felt it had the best variety of vendors.

Another spot on our bucket list was Lombardi’s in Little Italy, which was the first ever pizza restaurant in New York established in 1905. I was very pleased to see that they have a white pizza on their menu, which was something I wanted to try forever, and I was not disappointed. It was a delicious New York style pizza, nice, thin and not too greasy and overall the best pizza I ever had. Furthermore, if you haven’t been to Cold Stone Creamery before, you’re really missing out. I didn’t expect much but that ice cream blew my mind and is totally worth the eight dollars (I recommend the “Strawberry Banana Rendezvous”).

After a 12-hour bus drive, we arrived in Toronto, where we stayed in another Airbnb with a lovely lady, who we later found out was one of the founders of Greenpeace. For me, that is the great thing about Airbnb; you can meet the most interesting people by accident and learn more about your destination from a local, which is priceless. I personally loved Toronto and, to be honest, I felt more comfortable there than in any U.S. city because it felt more laid back but at the same time still had a lot to offer.

I highly appreciated the great bakeries there. As a German, I really missed that from home. Some of them were located in the historic Distillery district, Toronto’s old town, which is also a great place if you like an industrial flair and enjoy little vintage shops.

Another highlight was the trip to the Niagara Falls, something you shouldn’t miss when visiting Toronto. Despite the stunning view of the falls, we were rather negatively surprised that the region around the falls was full of modern hotels and casinos. It felt totally out of place at this scenery, which should be about the natural phenomenon and less about tourism. However, this short trip to Canada appealed to me a lot and I’m curious to come back and see more of this stunning country.

Aysel Kelleci is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at aysel.kelleci@uconn.edu.

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