I love exploring new cities. Don’t you?
I feel like every place has a heartbeat of its own, something that drives people to get up and buzz around in the beehive that is the metropolis. A place where you can really feel that vibe is Toronto. A friend of mine who is from there, but moved out west to Vancouver to start his own wedding DJ services company, suggested I visit.
I took a midnight flight with a budget airline (which, of course took off late) and arrived there early in the morning. The sun was just coming up over the enormous metropolis – you can’t really see where it starts or where it ends! Grey, long streets lined with orange street lights, grey buildings with lots of space in between and very little greenery. Not the sort of place you’d usually get excited to visit, right?
Nonetheless, Pearson Airport is amazing. Really a world-class airport with all the amenities and conveniences you could want including entire Irish pubs, mid-upper scale restaurants and shopping.
Transportation was easy, now there’s a new train that takes you straight from the international airport to the city core for a mere $12 CAD or $24 CAD return.
I am a bit of a snob so I decided to stay in a art-deco/boutique hotel called the Drake Hotel. The rates were a bit higher than your average Holiday Inn but the atmosphere and the local crowd that goes there is well worth it.
In addition to having a number of uniquely decorated rooms, the hotel also has a coffee shop, a lounge, which almost always has live music (the food is great too!) and a concert venue in the basement level. The first night I payed $5 to see local talent hip hop show. It was well worth the money because it started at 8 pm and went on until 2 am.
Exploring the City
There is really so much to see and do in Toronto so I’m sure I missed a bunch of places but here are some of the things I saw:
- The Eaton Centre: a huge mall in the centre of the city.
- Nathan Phillips Square: has an outdoor skating rink and houses the big “Toronto” sign that every tourist takes a picture with.
- Kensington Market: not really going there to shop unless you’re an old Asian lady who wants to get cheap produce, but the area doubles down as hipster central with cheap dive bars and interesting street art.
- Harbourfront Centre: another skating rink, I like skating okay… but arguable a little less crowded than Nathan Phillips.
- University of Toronto: basically looks like Hogwarts if you’re from North America, not as old or exciting if you compare it to European university campuses. I found a cool little spot for lunch in Hart House, the university’s student activity centre. The food so good and freshly prepared. I roamed around the building and found the library on the upper floors. It had a roaring fire in the huge stone fireplace and some really old literature.
- The Royal Ontario Museum (or ROM as the locals call it): a huge place in the middle of the city with really interesting architecture. Even if you don’t go in, it’s worth just walking by on Bloor Street to see it from the outside.
Toronto is definitely one of North America’s great cities with lots of culture and history. It’s bleak and cold in the winter but as soon as you walk into a pub, restaurant or shopping mall it’s bustling with so much life!