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!