Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style…

So the hostel thing is cool for a while, and as an only child I think that I did pretty well spending a month in communal living spaces…but eventually a fixed la bode becomes necessary for mental and financial well being.

I viewed a few places before I found somewhere.  The first place I viewed in Kits I really liked, $380 a month rent, an okay sized room and some decent roommates.  But these guys spent ages getting back to me, and it turns out that they had a friend who hadn’t decided if he was taking the room or not, and he eventually decided that he would.  The next place was also in trendy Kits.  I had heard people talking about the ridiculous set ups that landlords will impose to squeeze as many people into a house as possible, and now I got to see a great example!  The ‘bedroom’ for rent was actually a tiny attic space.  You had to climb up some ladders and then crawl though a tiny Borrowers style door to enter a room that was no more than 2.5 foot/50cm high!  And they wanted $650 a month for it.

The last place I almost didn’t go and see because it was quite far away from downtown, about 35 minutes on public transport.  However the place sounded amazing and the rent was really good.  My first attempt to get there almost ended in complete failure as I had typed the wrong address into my iPhone, woops!  But I got there eventually, and it was such a nice place…roomy, underfloor heating, hardwood floors, back yard…and the roommate seemed really cool.  Like all of the good places, they had viewings all week and then they would choose the tenant.  And I’m now very happy to say they chose me! 🙂

The first day of being able to unpack all of my stuff and sleep in a room all to myself was amazing!  I’ve been here a month now and I’m still loving it, it turns out that the distance from Downtown means that I don’t go to the SevenEleven every day and accidentally spend $20.  We are also very close to Little India/Punjabi Market so there is always loads of good food nearby!

Room hunt, success!Image

Beautiful British Columbia

You can’t really argue with a province whose tagline is ‘The best place in the world’, now can you?

Thursday

‘Those Americans will give you a tough time at the border’ they said.  ‘The Canadians are great, you’ll have no problem going the other way’ they said.  They said wrong.  I was supposed to cross the border back into Canada on the train, but there was some sort of problem so they put us on a bus (I still need to complain about that…), and I was the only one who had my bag emptied and swabbed for narcotics.  If it had been anyone but an armed immigration officer with my passport and visa in his hand, I would have told him to bugger off and did he realise how bloody difficult it is to pack a rucksack?  But I didn’t.  Because he was.

It turns out that the day before, an immigration officer had been shot at that exact same border crossing, so I forgave his paranoia a little.

People told me that it rained a lot in Vancouver.  “Puh, I’m from Glasgow”, I scoffed. “You don’t know rain until you’ve been there for a summer”.  It turns out that they do.  In fact if Vancouverites were to compete against Glaswegians in a rain-athon, my money would be on Vancouver.

This view may be slightly tainted by the fact that it rained for 24 solid hours when I arrived here, thus dashing all of my hopes that this talk of rain was just a vicious rumour.  I has booked into the Hosteling International Downtown hostel – I had realised a few hostels ago that the Planet Traveler in Toronto was a gem unto its own and so had stopped expecting such a standard, but even with this in mind, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the retro-but-not-in-a-cool-way feel of the place.  Regardless of this, I was happy with my room and new roommates – Sinead and Ursula.  The girls were from Ireland and had arrived in Vancouver on a working visa ten days before me, it was a reminder that the care free traveler part of my adventure was over, and it was time to start looking for gainful employment…and a fixed address.

Welcome to Toronto International!

For around a week before departure, I had been checking the Toronto weather.  Sunny skies, high-twenty temperatures and a welcome break from Glasgow’s very wet “summer” my iPhone weather app had promised.  Well I didn’t actually see any of Toronto until we hit the runway…cloudiest day of the month so far apparently!  ”

Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you”…hmmm!

Well, not even the weather could tamper my elated excitement/crippling fear as I bounded off to immigration.  I explained to the very nice immigration officer that although I had a working holiday visa, I wanted to enter and exit Canada on a tourist visa as I would be visiting the US before entering again at Vancouver.  Half way through my blurb I had a brief vision of me being kicked out of Canada before actually getting in for trying to ‘work’ the system.  But all was well and before I knew it I had been spat out into the sprawling metropolis that is Toronto, ready to make my way and find my place in this new and exciting country!

As a wannabe hardened traveler, I decided that cabs and organised airport shuttle buses were for the weak…and those on a more flexible travel budget.  So consulting my trust Lonely Planet guide, I navigated my way onto two buses and a train to find the way to my hostel, all for $2.50.  Score!  This traveling on a shoestring thing is easy!

I hadn’t hosteled in a while, and the last time I did it was on the Khao San Road in Bangkok, so I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I checked into Planet Traveler on College Street.  En-suit bathrooms, heated roof terrace, breakfast until 1pm – just the gentle ease in I needed!  When I got to my room I met Louise, who had just come to the end of Working Holiday Visa journey and was going back to England in a few days.  She gave me lots of excellent advice and a hairdryer!

So the next few days looked like this:

Wednesday:  I had a wander around the city.  I found it quite overwhelming, and it took me a good few hours to work out how the cross walks worked!  I had my first Tim Hortons which I found myself being overly excited about.  The hostel was planning a bar crawl this evening, and although I really wanted to go, be sociable and make some friends, I crashed at 8pm!

Thursday: Krista, a friend of an old friend that I studied at St Andrews with saw on Facebook that I was in Toronto, and being a Toronto resident, offered to show me around which was excellent!  We went to the Shoe Museum which was pretty cool, and then onto the Art Gallery of Ontario and successfully critiqued some modern art!  Krista happened to have a spare ticket for Sister Act, the musical which she kindly offered to me.  It was a really fun night!

Friday:  Niagara Falls trip!  We went to a vineyard on the way for some wine tasting (random at 10am!) – they make ‘ice wine’ there which is made with grapes frozen in the winter.  I met a girl about my age and her mum (from Scotland!) on the trip.  They were hosteling across Canada together and were just about coming to the end of their trip. When we got to Niagara we went on the “Maid of the Mist’ boat tour which takes you right up close to the falls…and you are guaranteed to get soaked!   It was tres fun!

At night I had a couple of glasses of wine (bought at the vineyard) with some of the guys from the hostel, then I went out to meet my cousin’s mate John (Buddha) and his girlfriend, Michelle and Michelle’s sister for a drink.  We went to see a band that the guys know and had a good old chat – great night!
Saturday:  Went out to do a bit of shopping on Saturday, but home early to rest up for the big roof top BBQ party at the hostel in the evening.  It did not disappoint.  I got a tad drunk, went out dancing afterwards and had a great time trying to pack to leave for Ottawa in the morning when I got back!
Overall, I really liked Toronto but I found myself looking forward to getting out of the big, dirty city and into some nature and countryside.  The final conclusion on this one needs to come from retrospect I think!Image