After our wonderful stay in Winnipeg with the lovely Jacques, it was time to head to Toronto. This great metropolis is the biggest city in Canada and also one of the most multicultural cities in North America. It is well known for its amazing diversity of ethnic restaurants, its art and culture scene and its position as one of the world’s economical powerhouses. It’s the city that the rest of Canada loves to hate, but I don’t understand why. It’s exciting, modern and fast-paced but it still seems to have that “gosh golly” Canadian friendliness.
We stayed in a tiny but very clean hostel in Chinatown, within walking distance from all of the action. We spent 10 days in Toronto, giving us plenty of time to see the city as well as catch up on our work. Our days were spent wandering the city for many hours taking in the character of the different neighborhoods.
Our Epic Train Journey
Getting to Toronto from Winnipeg was quite a long ordeal. When Lee was booking the train online with Via Rail he found us a great deal, “Look,” he said, “We will leave on Tuesday night at 11pm and we will arrive at 11am in the morning.”
That seemed reasonable until we realized that the train would not be arriving the next morning but on Thursday morning, making the trip a 35 hour journey!
35 hours is a long time to stay on a train, but we made the most of it. Here are a few things we learned:
Tips for Train Travel in Canada
- Pack as much food as you can in advance because the dining car is expensive.
- Wear comfortable clothing and bring your pajamas to change into so that you can sleep.
- You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a sleeper car as the seats are very spacious and they recline to make relatively comfortable places to sleep.
- Try to get two rows of seats facing each other as this allows you the most leg room and is the most comfortable for sleeping.
- Bring a blanket or a coat which you can use as a blanket, as the train gets cold at night.
- Whenever the train stops, use the opportunity to get off for a minute or two. It breaks up the journey, gives you some fresh air, and allows you to enjoy the scenery.
- If you are a digital nomad and you have work to do on the road, download the websites you need to do research on in advance so that you can get some work done even without an internet connection.
- Don’t forget to look out the window, as the train will take you through some of the most stunning scenery that Canada has to offer. You can go for hours and hours without seeing a single town, with endless vistas of rugged forests, tranquil lakes and rushing rivers. It was especially beautiful as we passed through, since it was the end of September and the autumn leaves were in full color with their spectacular shades of red, orange and yellow. Lee also saw the Northern Lights for the first time out the window of the train as well as a moose standing proudly at the edge of some remote Ontario lake.
Going to the Supermarket for a Beer
While we were in Toronto we met up with my dear friend Brittany Flamank, who took us to a funky bar where we discussed the meaning of life over a few pints. Later in the journey I was checking my bank balance online when I saw a charge for “Supermarket” on my debit card.
I was incredibly confused at first… since I didn’t remember ever going grocery shopping that day while we were in Toronto. I was worried that I had been the victim of identity fraud until I remember that the trendy bar had been called “Supermarket”. How confusing…
Brittany also took us to Kensington Market, which is the groovy hipster neighborhood of Toronto filled with tiny coffee shops and vintage used clothing stores. We saw everything from knitted panda bear mittens to 1970s leather jackets to enormous pink tulle skirts. If you are looking for a unique place to have a local cup of coffee or a fun and funky vintage clothing shopping experience, this will definitely be one of your favorite parts of Toronto.
Adventures in Chinatown
Our hostel was in the Chinatown area of Toronto. This city has one of the largest Chinatown areas in North America and its a great place to find cheap and delicious authentic Chinese food. In June you can enjoy the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, a spectacle of color which fills the Toronto harbor.It is also a great place to find cheap technology and I ended up spending lots of time in computer shops with Lee the gadget lover!
One of our funniest stories from staying in Chinatown was a misunderstanding that resulted when we tried to buy some ground beef to make a chili. Lee was trying to ask for the amount from the butcher, who didn’t speak English. After a few very vague hand gestures, nods and smiles he was handed an enormous bag of ground beef which was about the size of a small child! We didn’t know how to explain that it was too much, so we just gave up and bought it. We ended up eating chili and spaghetti and meat sauce for the duration of our stay in Toronto! As we left the city I didn’t feel like eating beef for a long time!
This is a Bit Silly, Over
In a city the size of Toronto we were worried that we would get separated from each other and not be able to get in touch. Lee didn’t have a cell phone, but rather than buying a cell phone like normal people we decided to pretend that we were 12 again and buy some cheap walkie talkies instead.
We spent hours running around the city playing hide and seek with the walkie talkies, giving each other hints on where to find each other and then sneakily running across the street. We got more than a few weird looks, but it was lots of fun!
After 10 days in Toronto (including my birthday which was the most epic day ever and deserves its own post) we found a ride share to Ottawa. Next stop, the nation’s capital!