After spending a few days in Canada’s largest city, I couldn’t help but make some observations along the way. Here’s a few things that I found scribbled in a notebook from those days as I worked, played, and remained casually judgmental.
1. Biking is okay in Toronto, but not great.
Before even crossing into the city limits, I had the impression that Toronto was a bike-friendly city. With a permanent residence in Chicago, I had high expectations for the Canadian equivalent. I will say that a few areas around the city are great for biking…Toronto Island in particular after the ferry ride. However, a majority of the streets downtown don’t have bike lanes, so you have to squeeze between cars in heavy traffic. To save on hotel bills, I stayed in the semi-nearby Scarborough Township. Biking to the downtown area required either a bus-yellow line subway ride or a blue line-green line transfer subway ride, which became a pain in the ass after a couple days.
I see enough white people on a daily basis, so Toronto was refreshingly diverse. Never have I seen so many mixed-race couples and bi-racial kids running around in public parks.
3. You can smoke weed wherever you want.
A whiff here, a whiff there, a passing breeze to bring back cloudy memories of college days. Unless my nose steers me wrong, Toronto isn’t all that hung up on public use marijuana laws.
If you lived out your adolescent years in the 90s you might feel right at home in Toronto. While biking the city streets, I saw a greater than average number of flannel shirts, baggy jeans, mohawks, and camouflage.
5. Folks are cool with being naked.
I had the pleasure of experiencing my first nude beach near Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. There were a good number of fully nude dudes, a couple shirtless chicks, and a surprisingly un-weird vibe. This beach was incredibly peaceful, despite all the “stuff” hanging out.
6. Traffic is just as bad, or worse, than Chicago.
Since I live in a city, I typically don’t enjoy vacationing in a city…especially another one with similarly stressful traffic. Getting around the highways can be difficult when your GPS doesn’t understand where Canada is and your cell reception cuts off at the border.
7. People aren’t overly friendly, but cordial.
After my last road trip through Montana, I became accustomed to strangers being friendly to road trippers. Toronto struck a middle ground in this regard. Locals didn’t exactly go out of their way to say hello, but they weren’t assholes either. I met a guy named Walter who lived on Marcos Street and had an exquisite collection of gnomes in his yard. Naturally, I introduced myself. He was kind enough to let me snap some shots and even see the backyard collection.
8. The Scarborough Bluffs don’t exist.
I read about the Scarborough Bluffs on Trip Advisor and thought it’d be a cool place to check out for some cliff-side biking. I found that the bluffs (if they do happen to exist) are pretty inaccessible by bike. After some dead ends and treacherous roads, I didn’t even catch a glimpse of any jagged peaks.
Just when you thought things were expensive back at home, Canada gives you a swift slap in the face. A one-way bus ride cost me $4.35, a mediocre six-pack of beer costs me around $13, and if I could figure out the metric system I’d tell you what an exorbitant rate I paid for gas.
Those are the nine random things that I’ll probably remember most about being in Toronto? I can’t say that I felt at home there and I’m not sure if I’ll be back anytime soon, but it definitely was an interesting place that was fun to spend a few days in.