Friday, 18 October 2013

Toronto

~ Warning:Super long~ 
When I was planning my trip post exchange, I struggled with places to visit. Originally I had planned on visiting Montreal and Toronto, however it would have cost me an extra $250 in flights alone just to go over to Montreal so alas, I ended up staying in Toronto for a grand total of 9 days. Nine long days.

24th December 2012
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I arrived in Toronto on Christmas Eve and breathed through customs in literally 2 minutes. Seriously. I stayed at Canadiana Backpackers Inn and it was relatively cheap. During my stay I realised that it wasn't only a hostel, but also a form of semi-permanent lodging. There were quite a few Australia living in Toronto for no reason in particular. Well, I think the reason was to 'discover something in their life'. Quick review. It was relatively clean although my room was right next to the super, super creaky stairs. Truth be told, the limited number of bathrooms originally bugged me but after 8 nights, I had the timing downpat (especially knowing when the cleaning crew came around). There was free breakfast of pancakes. Prior to that, I was not the biggest fan of pancakes but after the 3rd morning, even free wasn't good enough. To this day, I really just don't like pancakes. Sworn off for a very very long time.

25th December 2012
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University of Toronto. 

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Christmas day. Alone. Well, I had a hostel Christmas dinner at night but I walked around Toronto at 8am in the morning. It had snowed over night which was incredibly exciting since the only other time I had seen fresh snow was on my Snow Trip with highschool friends back in July 2012. It was cold. And naturally, the streets were completely dead. I walked in a massive loop, through Chinatown-esque area, University of Toronto, to areas that looked somewhat dodgy and eventually walked past a church where people were filling in.

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 To be honest, I don't know how I managed to take this sneaky shot.

I was raised as a Catholic, baptised, Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance, Holy Communion and Sacrament of Confirmation. The last time I was in a church was probably when I was 13 on Christmas Eve. The sermons were as boring as I remember them to be, although I did like the hymns and my favourite part was the moment when you turned to the people beside you to say "peace be with you". Also, the most exciting part was when I went up for the Eucharist and red wine!! I'm sorry, I really shouldn't be so excited for the wine part, but I spent 2 years at a Catholic school (and many years after that at the same church) and we only had Ribena. For obvious reasons.

The Christmas dinner was underwhelming although they had stuffing! I adore stuffing. I first tried it at my lovely Thanksgiving family (should write about that at some stage) and it is lovely. Lovely, lovely.

26th December 2012
Boxing Day. I walked through Toronto again (that was basically my plan for the entire duration of my stay) and came across City Hall (which was a really nice building) and this very cool sculpture.

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'Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination'. The photo is super bright, but it is a lion and a lamb on a balanced scale.

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Also found the skating rink, which my Canadian web friend replied with, "I don't think I have ever seen it that empty!". I people-watched for a while on another occasion and there was this toddler, bundled up like a little Michelin (wo)man and she was so determined. She wasn't skating per se, more shuffling her feet only to fall down after 1m. She would get up as though nothing happened and continued shuffling. Only to fall. Shuffle. Fall. Shuffle. Fall. It was so endearing and to see her continue to try was just ... it made me warm inside. I stumbled (basically how I found anything) upon Eaton shopping centre and went inside, mainly because my nose was about to fall off. It had the best Christmas decorations I have ever seen and the reindeer light thing was incredible. I didn't buy much, a pair of Aéropostale jeans and also some lingerie from Victoria's Secret. Honestly, the lingerie I got was so pretty, but if I think about the fact that if I was to ever wear it, it would only really be there for all of 10 minutes. So right now, I have $120 worth of Victoria Secret's lingerie just sitting there in my closet forevermore. Ah well. It was appreciated.

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27th December 2012
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Today was High Park! For some reason, I thought it was a simple 20 minute walk from my hostel. Boy, was I wrong. The night before, it had snowed heavily, I believe it was 15cm. It was actually a 6km walk one way, which would normally equate to 1.25hrs. But since it had just snowed, there was slush everywhere. Everywhere. I had prepared myself, clothes wise, pretty well for the cold. But the one thing that I had forgotten was my shoes. I brought 3 pairs of shoes when I first flew into LA: sneakers, thongs and sandals. When I flew into Toronto, I had only two: my sneakers and my thongs (since I already threw out my sandals to save weight). Yeah, sneakers aren't exactly the most waterproof shoes on the planet. But for the first few kilometres, my feet were relatively fine (since there were a lot of shops, the foothpath had been cleared and salt was on the ground). But near the end of my walk, there was snow everywhere. I am not sure which one was the lesser of two evils: walking in snow with my sneakers, or walking on the icy/salty/slippery/wet/slushy footpath with my sneakers. For the former, my feet were wet and for the latter, I had to concentrate so hard to make sure I wouldn't slip and crack my skull open. Once I got there, it was pretty. Really pretty but after a while, the snow got kind of old. Snow was pretty and then it was just 'meh' (I had the same attitude in Europe too).

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Frozen lake.

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My favourite shot. I was tempted to walk further out, but was scared that I would slip and fall into the freezing waters.

29th December 2012
(Skipped a day because on the 28th, I went to Niagara Falls which will be separated into another post).
By this stage, I was struggling for things to do in Toronto. As you can see, I only really did one thing a day because I had so much time in Toronto. Too much time.

I headed out west to Distillery Historic District, St Lawrence Markets and the general area. Some streets were a little hmm. Didn't really feel so comfortable but just walked faster. The distillery district was very underwhelming.

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You know it's cold when this happens. I don't even know how....

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30th December 2012
I went up North to see Casa Loma! A nice 4.5km stroll one way. No, in all honesty it was nice walking into another part of downtown Toronto although there was this one part that I never quite liked; I swear it was a food kitchen and just awkward all around. Casa Loma, the most disappointing thing on the planet and I ended up walking a little more to a park. It was relaxing just watching little kids toboggan down the fairly steep hill and the dogs just running around, and I ended up walking back to my hostel and called it a day. But blue skies!! The first in a very very long time. It was very exciting at the time.

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Gotta love those slushy footpaths!

31st December 2012
NYE! I was meeting an exchange friend for NYE. To be honest, I don't know what I did in the morning. Probably nothing really. We met up fairly late at Eaton Centre and he just irritated me from the get go.

My skin basically went to hell when I got to Toronto. When I was in Boston, my face was already getting worse but when I was in Toronto, it was as though half my face was about to peel off. No seriously. I had all these ... I'm not sure what to call it, I guess sores? Well, I guess that is what it looked liked. Basically it was so cold, humidity was so low, etc that the skin on my face decided to give up. Bits were going red → peeling off (D:) → took forever to regrow more skin. Yep. It was hell. And I was so self-conscious about it. On the second day, I bought myself the Nivea Creme (the stuff that I use on my legs after I shave to make them uber smooth) to slather on my face like there was no tomorrow. Nivea creme, it was the thickest thing possible and if I was to do that here in Sydney, all my pores would be clogged in a micro-second. Anyways, when I saw the friend the first thing he said was, "what happened to your face". I almost hit him. But I did storm off at the very least and he ran after me, trying to keep up. The plan was to watch the fireworks at City Hall. Which we did. The shortest, most anti-climatic fireworks I have ever seen in my life. Even the fireworks at Darling Harbour on a Saturday night were better. Honest to God. The best part of the night though was watching the girls heading into the clubs. They were in -15 degrees C weather, dressed in mini-dresses/skirts, 10cm heels WALKING IN SLUSH/ SNOW. I don't even know. The funniest scene was when I saw these two girls and one was clearly drunk and was saying, "it's so cold". Obviously, as she was wearing a mini dress (without a jacket) and heels. The other girl said her feet hurt, but clearly couldn't take off her heels so after 3 steps, she would crouch down, I guess in an attempt to rest her feet.

I went up to the friend's hostel which was further north (which was so inconvenient actually) and it was just awkward. People getting wasted which wasn't my scene at all and then I walked the 30 minutes walk back to my hostel.
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Hostel view of downtown Toronto

1st January 2013
I don't think I really did anything that day. Seriously.

2nd January 2013
It was the day I was leaving Toronto to fly back into the States. Finally. It was also the warmest day out of the 9 days that I was there. I believe that it was -5 degrees when I left! On average, the temperature was around -15 degrees and I almost died. It was so, so cold. My face was cold, my hands were cold, heck, even my knees were cold and I wore so many layers. I had: merino wool thermals, super tight and super long tank top, thermal t-shirt, fleece and sherpa lined jacket (I wore this in Sydney on a 10 degree day and almost overheated) and either my duck down jacket or my 95% woolen winter coat. Not including my scarf, my gloves, my beanie. Down bottom, I had on fleece lined leggings and my jeans over top. Next time, actually I don't know what I could have done differently next time, aside from sticking a thousand and one of those heat packs. The problem wasn't necessarily that it was cold, it was the fact that I still wanted to be touristy and check out attractions which required me to spend extended periods of time out in the open.

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Bottom bunk was mine as was the bottom locker on the right hand side ... and the closet on the left. LOL. I made it my little home, especially since I always kept my sleeping bag liner (see blue thing hanging on the side) to cover the length of the bunk bed. 
 My Overall Thoughts
Aside from the weather, Toronto is a city that I could see myself living in. It felt very much like Sydney. The thing I liked the most was the fact that there were parks everywhere, at least one on every two blocks. Sure, they weren't large parks but it was something. Toronto is not a city you would visit as a tourist. Perhaps as a stopover or a starting point for a roadtrip in Canada, but definitely not to visit. Unless you are interested in the arts, because there are two (or maybe three) amazing art galleries, or so I was told by my Canadian friend. I was incredibly bored after the 2nd day. But all in all, it was really good because it gave me a little break from travelling back to back; moving all the time and sleeping in one bed for one night, it becomes draining to be honest and so in a sense, it was lovely to take a breather before I headed on my whirlwind in Europe.

Would I re-visit?
Dear Lord, no. I have had my share of Toronto. Thanks, but no thanks.

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