Travels in Toronto

Trip Start May 24, 2009
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Trip End Nov 05, 2009


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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Having managed to escape the black hole that was Buffalo I boarded the Greyhound bus, destination Canada.  Within ten minutes I was off the bus again, lining up to get through Canadian customs.  I got the impression it was touch and go for a bit, they guy behind the desk didn't seem to like the look of me one bit, but I think he was being like that to everyone!  So, Canadian stamp in my passport I re-boarded the bus and we set off for Toronto.

The journey took us around the edge of Lake Ontario and when I first saw it I genuinely though it was the sea, before remembering that Toronto is inland!  The lake is huge and you can't see anything on the horizon except more lake.  And actually arriving in Toronto I got a really good view of the entire harbor front area, totally stunning!  I guess, if you'll allow the stretch of  imagination it's like an enormous version of Cardiff Bay, but much better planned and cleaner.

Getting off the bus at Union Station I managed to navigate both the Metro and streetcar system to find my way to the hostel.  Rather luckily for me it happened to be cheese and wine night at there, a bonus for me as I'd not really managed to find much food since breakfast so I made the very most of the cheese and bread basket on offer.  Got to try a pretty unusual Canadian cheese, Cheddar with...you guessed it, maple syrup!  Sounds disgusting but it wasn't too sweet, just had the maple taste.  Got chatting to a few people and one of the hostel staff, Vera, told us that a bar around the corner had live bands on that night.  So, I got to see three rather interesting examples of Canadian and US music, what can only be described as a Strokes tribute band, expect they didn't actually do covers, a US Blue Grass outfit and the headliners, The Outbred Inlaws, basically Punk County music...eclectic to say the least!

For my first full day in Toronto I headed off down to find the lake shore and ended up at something called the "Urban Beach", a patch of sand set up with sun loungers and parasols in the middle of the harbor.  The weather being very hot and sunny there were quite a few people out in their swimming costumes making the most of the weather.  From there I walked along the harbor front for a bit before making my way towards the old quarter of the city to the St Lawrence Market.  Here I ended up spending a slightly excessive amount of money (well $20 but I'm on a tight budget) on cheese, olives and some other deli bits and pieces for dinner that might and a few other meals if I could stretch it.  Canada seems much more interested in 'real' cheese than the US, much to my delight, but the vast majority of it was imported British, French or Dutch, very little actual Canadian, and sadly, no maple syrup cheddar!

Day two I decided to bit a bit more of a tourist and head up the CN Tower.   Formally the tallest freestanding structure in the World it's hard to miss it from most of the city as it does tower (no pun intended) over everything else!  Of course, it was just my luck that as soon as I got into the tower and tried to take a picture I realised that I'd left the memory card for my camera at the hostel!  Out came the trusty camera phone, so I did get pictures from the top of the tower but as yet I haven't worked out how to upload them to my laptop so you'll have to wait for those!  You really can see the entire city from the observation deck, and apparently if you go to the upper level ($8 extra so I didn't bother) you can see Niagara Falls on a clear day!  But, even without forking out the extra cash you get excellent views of the city on one side and the Toronto Islands and the lake on the other.  Also, for those brave enough, you can stand on a portion of glass floor which they've installed.  Every so slightly disconcerting even when they tell you it can hold several tonnes in weight, but I had a go.


After making the most of my market trip the previous day to make some lunch I caught the Metro up to the Royal Ontario Museum, as recommended by my friend Leigh who is the one who inspired me to visit Canada in the first place.  The museum currently has a large exhibition on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including several of the scrolls themselves.  Had a good look around there for an hour or so, though I've got to admit that the artifacts and history of the area the scrolls were found in was actually more interesting than the scrolls themselves, at least for me!  The Museum also has a large collection of First Nations (Indian) material as well as dinosaurs and stuff from China, Japan and Korea, so that was an afternoon well spent.


On Friday I had to get up early (well 8am but that's early when you're traveling) so catch the train to Montreal.  Via Rail, the Canadian train service seems pretty decent and I think train was a better option than bus because you got a lot more room than on the Greyhound.  I'd been sampling the Toronto night life the evening before so slept for most of the trip!
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Where I stayed
Canadiana Backpackers Hostel

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