Travel Guide: Toronto

My first impression of Toronto was blue glass studded with bright fall foliage. As you drive in from the airport, the first buildings to greet you once you actually get in to the city are tall, modern, glass skyscrapers, and behind that, the blue of the Great Lakes. We went at the perfect time of year: the air was crisp and the small deciduous trees planted in the well-landscaped green spaces between buildings were fiery shades of orange and yellow and red. It was stunningly beautiful.

We stayed in the financial district, which feels like you’re in the middle of everything when you arrive on a Friday afternoon—the sidewalks and underground tunnels are bustling, restaurants and bars are full of business people—but it’s deceptive. Come Saturday morning we discovered this is not the best area of town to spend a weekend—75% of businesses in the area shut down when the working crowd goes home.

IMG_4390I love that the city’s districts are very distinct. You know exactly when you’ve crossed the street from Chinatown to the Fashion District. Toronto is very walkable, with wide sidewalks and ample opportunities to cross busy streets—and everyone obeys walk signals. (Although Andrew attributes that to innate Canadian niceness). I loved the public art and design throughout the city and definitely could have spent another afternoon walking aimlessly, admiring it all!

IMG_4387We spent our evenings in the King West neighborhood, which seems to be pretty hip, but not over run with 20-something hipsters. (Man, I sound like a crotchety old lady.) Great restaurants abound and there’s a great nightlife scene—with plenty of taxis to get you home. We did have to wait in line to get in to the bar—the locals we were with said that if we had arrived before 10:00 we would have been good to go.

 

Highlights

Where to go: I spent some significant time in the fashion district. Every other store front seems to be a massive fabric store. I loved King Textiles—with roll upon roll upon roll of fabric (and real fashion designers placing orders!), it reminded me of Mood from Project Runway.

IMG_4380What to do: Lots of people told us about a giant mall near our hotel. I’m not usually a big mall shopper, but after a couple months in Bermuda, chain stores (and Auntie Anne’s!) are starting to become a welcome, American-feeling sight. We didn’t go to the CN Tower, but I’m kind of wishing we had—however, I’ve heard the food is not very good in the restaurant at the top, so best to just imbibe a cocktail and the view!

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Where to eat: We had some absolutely fantastic meals in Toronto—and yes, don’t worry we had poutine. I absolutely loved Sansotei Ramen. They have a handful of dishes that are really just very slight variations on pork belly ramen—I love when a restaurant is so sure of what they’re doing, they only offer you what they make best. Another standout was Buca—an Italian place in King West. The atmosphere is amazing, and so is the suckling pig! (Oh, and the cheese tray… mmmm… cheese….)

IMG_4370 copyEditor’s Note: This first guide is pretty short since we were only in town for the weekend. Do you have Toronto tips? Please feel free to share in the comments or send me an email! Interested in writing a travel guide? Email me at kristink_64@yahoo.com.

My travel advice: You should totally do it

Last week boyfriend and I spent a long weekend in Toronto. He was there for work, I was there because… I could be. (Ah, the joys of working remotely!) We had a great, albeit relatively uneventful weekend, filled with new (for me) friends, fantastic meals and plenty of relaxation.

In the last two years, I left North America for the first time (London, Paris); visited countless domestic cities (New York, Baltimore, Philly, Virginia Beach, Charleston, Savannah, and a hundred small towns in between); went on the most spontaneous trip of my life (Costa Rica with four days notice); oh, and moved to Bermuda.

Of all places, it took Toronto to make me realize it’s kind of all the same. Not in a the-world-is-boring-nothing-is-worth-anything kind of way, but in a way that throws fear out the window, imbues you with the self-confidence of self-reliance and mitigates pre-existing notions of “the other” and the us-versus-them attitude that seems so pervasive in our culture right now.

Travel makes the world feel smaller in the best possible way. No matter where you go, you will meet someone kind and fun and wonderful, you will see something so beautiful it takes your breath away, you will eat something delicious that you will never have again. The experience of a place gets lodged in your heart and you will never be able to be hateful or uncaring toward its inhabitants again.

One second while I step down from my soap box…

To that end, I’m starting a new travel feature here on the blog. As I can’t quite afford to populate the section by myself (anyone want to send me on a free trip somewhere?? Anyone?), and I happen to have quite a few good friends who are very good writers, you’ll even get to read something besides my drivel. Look for Toronto tomorrow!