This month I was able to tick another country off of my travel bucket list. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Canada and I am so pleased that I did. It was absolutely incredible and has left me with a very empty feeling now that I'm home. It's THE biggest post holiday blues I've ever had and that's saying something. Here's my trip condensed into one awesome blog post.
We didn't arrive in Toronto until around 6.30pm after a long flight and a lengthy spell in extra security in the airport spent wondering how they were going to send us down only to be told we could go through once we were at the front of the line. After getting to the train station we needed to be at we realised how damn confusing public transport can be. In Canada you don't get given a ticket until you actually go through the barriers...weird, I know. You're expected to have the correct change and put it in a pot and stroll through or queue up if you don't have exact change. We made a massive mess of this but got through in the end. Once we arrived at the apartment it was time to feast and then pass out for the night. Coincidentally, weed had just been made legal that day in Canada, that evening and for the rest of the week you could definitely tell.
On our first full day we were up at the crack of dawn (actually about 2 hours before dawn) due to the time difference. We wanted to ensure we explored the city. Our apartment was on Queen Street West, which by all accounts is the coolest street in the city. It has a plethora of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutiques. Our first stop was actually right behind our apartment - Graffiti alley. An instagram hotspot, we thought getting there early would help us beat the crowds but I think the fact it was 2 degrees was more of a factor for it being deserted than the time. After Graffiti alley we headed down to the CN tower, Toronto's number one tourist spot. the view from below looking up is a little disorientating.
The view from the top is worth the admission fee. You can see for miles, all of Toronto, the islands, lake Ontario, the finance district, the university. Looking down on the finance district made me feel like Harvey Specter about to go and kick some ass (Toronto is where Suits was filmed).
After securing some free beers from the Steam Whistle Brewery (our charming British accents must have done it) below the CN tower, we explored more of the city - the distillery district, which I would highly recommend and St. Lawrence market, which definitely did not have enough free tasters for a food market.
On day 3 we headed out to the Toronto Islands which I cant recommend highly enough, I think that they were perhaps my favourite part of the city. This is where you come to get the quintessential Toronto pictures of the city skyline against the lake and it does not disappoint. You'll have to wait until I post my next city runs to hear about the rest of my day 3...
Day 4 was bucket list territory...Niagara falls! This place is incredible, it's a little bit surreal as it feels like it's in the middle of nowhere with small towns around it but it's so stunning and a place you have to try and see once in your life.
You may have seen a viral video on facebook recently with a view of the falls from a skytower restaurant, naturally I had to check this out and although the service was slow and the food very meh and despite the waiter knocking over my phone that I had strategically balanced on my bread and my water to get an awesome timelapse of the view - it was so so worth it.
Thankfully, when we arrived back in Toronto we stumbled upon a traditional Chinese restaurant in China town (duh), and all the disappointment of the food we had for lunch was washed away. We had best Duck I have ever tasted, it melted in your mouth! It was incredible it was just a shame that we ordered enough to feed a small village by accident, it had everyone staring at us like - "these damn tourists". Embarrassing? Yes. Do I regret it? No.
On Day 5 we allowed ourselves an in-between day. A bit of a later start and then just having a wander around and doing what we felt like. No plans with areas to see. We re-visited the Islands wanting to explore more as they are pretty big and you need a good few hours to see all they have to offer. We had a fantastic time there but we should have known we were in for a good day after it started with bags of attention from a bulldog puppy on the ferry over and then bumping into the most photogenic cat I've ever seen.
During the rest of the day we managed to infiltrate the University of Toronto open day by mistake while just wanting to take a look at the campus. The campus reminded me of Professor Xavier's house in X-men or something from Monsters University. To finish the day we went to a really nice asian-fusion restaurant on King street called LEE which was fantastic.
On Day 6 we had a bit of a dilemma, there was a national park that we both wanted to visit but it would require hiring a car and driving a 6 hour round trip. That idea eventually got thrown away. We settled on visiting Rouge National Urban Park, which was a far closer alternative and was definitely worthwhile. It had gorgeous red, yellow and orange trees with a river flowing right alongside the trail that used to be used to export wood for ship building in Europe, coming across one stupidly picturesque back-road. It was so peaceful to stroll through the trails all day in comfort with my Adidas Ultraboosts on. We barely came across another person the whole time. However, we did end the day frozen and getting on the bus to go home was a welcome relief.
By the end of the trip we had fully fallen in love with Toronto, the food, the atmosphere, the nature. It wasn't until we both arrived home that we realised just how awesome Toronto was, I could have easily spent another week or two in and around the city for sure. Just as confirmation that we were honorary Torontites (if that's a word), we managed to master crossing the streets before the rest of the tourists and starting to nail using public transport with exact change. I am now part Canadian.
Author / Contributor - Matt Tapley