P.C. The featured image is courtesy of Jeffisy over at Flickr.
When I went to Toronto a few weeks ago, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I had been looking for any opportunity to go and visit the city for pretty much all of last year. Initially, I was meant to see the city in all it’s autumn glory in September of last year, but that just didn’t work out. But I had an ex-friend visit Toronto around that time and like a eager little beaver, upon his return, I was full of questions.
“What was Toronto like”?
“Was it nice…was it shit, you can be honest bro, TELL ME EVERYTHING“?
“Honestly, it’s nothing amazing. It’s like London man”.
Conversely, I’m close to a very, very patriotic Canadian who always speaks of his city in high regard.
From the blasé response I got from my ex-friend and the super enthusiastic and patriotic response I’ve always gotten from my Canadian, I just didn’t know what to expect from the city.
So off I went.
My trip to Canada was meant to be for three days and when I tell you the first of those three days was quite possibly the worst day of my life, I mean it. Things just kept going from bad to worse. (Bare in mind that my actual journey to New York was terrible – I had a fever and puked a good three times, it was gross 😷).
The plan was that I would land in New York at 9.30am and catch the earliest flight out to Toronto (which was at 15.30pm). Now given that it takes forever to get past immigration when you’re in the States, I thought it wise to just sit out those six hours at the airport. And as much as I hate waiting, I had no other option, so I did it. I waited those six hours out only to then have my flight be delayed twice. Then at 17.00pm, due to heavy snow, the flight got cancelled altogether.
I had to queue for another hour or so in order to get a new ticket for the next flight out, which just so happened to be from a completely different, very distant airport the very next morning. So we left JFK, hopped on the wrong train (this train didn’t even stop for an hour), realised we had gotten on the wrong train about 35 minutes into the journey, ended up on the other side of New York in some random ass town, waited another 40 minutes for the next train from the outskirts of New York to get to our Airbnb and no word of a lie, I almost died from the cold while waiting for my Uber to take us to the apartment. By the time we had gotten in, it was close to 10pm and the day had effectively gone to waste. I was drained, felt terribly unwell, landed on my bed and crashed within minutes.
The next morning, I decided to forget the losses I had taken the day prior. We got to the airport in the early hours, and despite the terrible turbulence on the plane, made it to Toronto in one piece. We took the train to our apartment, I got the chance to freshen up and feel like a human again and get a little bit of rest. Then we met the patriotic Canadian, who showed us his city.
On first impression, driving through Toronto, some of the buildings look very old and slightly ancient (like they could do with a lick of paint), compared to those in Central London. Then you get to downtown – the hub of Toronto, where the buildings are a lot more modern. The apartment we were staying in had a beautiful view of the city – you could see the CN Tower by looking directly out of the window and the view was nothing short of glorious.
Here is the view by day…
… and here it is by night:
That day we did a little bit of exploring downtown and I was very impressed by PATH. Weeks earlier, one of my clients had told me about Toronto’s underground pedestrian tunnels but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Now that I was here, I was rather impressed – PATH is essentially an underground tunnel made up of lots of shops, places to eat and be entertained AND it connects to the transit system. It’s rather clever when you think about it because Canadians experience terrible winters and you don’t necessarily want to be outside walking in the cold. So PATH is Toronto’s very own clever means to battling the harsh winters – its a strip of 30 kilometers of indoor underground tunnels and a small, very clever salvation from the bone-chilling cold outside.
Another thing that I REALLY LIKED about Toronto was how diverse it was. Indeed Toronto has been deemed the most diverse city in the world – and I needed only look around myself to see people who bared testimony to this; there were people from all different corners of the world, getting on ever so peacefully. In Toronto, multiculturalism is the norm and by virtue of that, for an ex-pat or an immigrant to a city so diverse and rich in culture, I bet you’d never feel alone or as though you were a minority.
You know what the other bonus is to being in a city that is as diverse as Toronto? FOOD. Food is love and food is life and the fact that Toronto is made up of of such a diverse population means that there are so many options to pick from when it comes to going out for lunch or dinner. You’d never have to be a boring Betty and stick to one type of cuisine because there are so many to choose from.
I was a lazy little sloth for the rest of that evening and I don’t blame myself for that; I was drained from the day before and I didn’t want to brave the cold outside. We did go for a little drive that night and I experienced Toronto’s traffic. That was something else I had read up on before my trip – Toronto dominates the list of cities that have the worst traffic ever. I don’t drive, but if I was to ever end up in a city like Toronto and drive there on a day-to-day basis, I’m almost certain that I would have extreme road rage 😭.
The next day I slept in until midday and headed back downtown. I really wanted to do Niagara Falls during our trip but there had been a lot of snow and the falls had frozen over, with visibility being extremely poor, so it just didn’t seem worth it. Instead, I crossed off another “must-do” off my list – I went to the top of the CN Tower and I loved the view. In fact, I think I preferred the view from the top of the CN Tower to that of the view from the top of the Empire State Building. It was gorgeous – I love, love, loved it!
After sunset, we headed over to Distillery District, which is the equivalent of our Shoreditch and where the Toronto Light Festival was taking place. Despite the cold, I really enjoyed the light show. I knew that I didn’t have enough time during this trip to properly take in and appreciate Toronto’s art by visiting galleries like the Royal Ontario Museum but the light festival was certainly a somewhat redeeming factor. It had some pretty cool light installations that screamed “INSTAGRAM ME”.
After the light festival, we grabbed some food and that was pretty much our 48 hours in Toronto over and done with.
I liked Toronto despite the fact that I visited the city in perhaps its most coldest month. I have been told that you really see the city at its best in the summer. Prior to visiting Toronto, I had made a list of over 20 different places/activities that I wanted to do, and given that I only really crossed the CN Tower off of the list this time, I feel that another trip to Toronto in the not-to-distant future is certainly on the cards. I’ve already decided that the next time I’m in Toronto, I’m going to take in all of the art that the city has to offer and experience the night-life in the city.
The 48 hours that I did spend in the city were lovely – Toronto boasts a multicultural, diverse and clearly very liberal and accepting population. My stay in Toronto was short but sweet and I know that the city has much more to offer than I got to experience in my limited time there. Even so, my short amount of time in the city has left me impressed. Toronto, I know I’ll be back for ya!