Travel That Broadens Your View, Not Your Waistline

One of the many produce stands in Toronto's Kensington Market area.

One of the many produce stands in Toronto’s Kensington Market area.

I had the good fortune to spend a week in Toronto, Canada recently. Having said that, I have to tell you it cost a small fortune.

The airline tickets were a bargain, relatively speaking, about $750.00 round trip for two, plus another $100 for baggage fees. A decent hotel in GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is not cheap; our hotel was about $1,200 for the week, and that was for the smallest room in a downtown boutique hotel. The tradeoff was that the hotel was literally near everything we needed: shopping, public transit, great restaurants, sports venues and Lake Ontario.

It was my first time traveling anywhere that required a passport, and for the record, Customs was no problem. Yes, I was honest and declared what I bought. Yes, I brought back only the legal amount of alcohol (and no one is willing to ship any from Canada to the U.S., unless you are a commercial distributor). I brought back Grade 3 maple syrup (almost impossible to find in the U.S., unless you live in maple syrup country), twenty bars of chocolate (for my other blog), a half-dozen food books and very nice things to say about our northern neighbors.

  • They are very polite, I never entered or exited a building without someone holding a door.
  • Pedestrians rule, at least from what I saw on Toronto’s streets. Cars stop when you step into a cross walk; you’re not considered a target.
  • Public transit is cheap, clean and fast.
  • Gay marriage is legal.
  • The bookstores are locally owned, independent and carry an array of titles that will blow your mind and fill your suitcase.
  • People drink at lunch on business days.
  • The coffee and pastry shops are fantastic.
  • Torontonians seem to be a pretty fit bunch, in spite of all the good food and drink. There are lots of outdoor activities and gyms and frankly, the city is built into the side of a sloped plateau, so it’s constant uphill and downhill. The Husband and I lost almost ten pounds combined on this trip.
  • For every ethnic group you see on the streets, there are restaurants and food shops somewhere, providing the food that reminds them of home. Toronto has several ethnic neighborhoods: Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Roncesvalles Village (Polish), Corktown (Irish), The Danforth/Greektown,  and many more small, old enclaves featuring well-preserved homes and small shops.

We did a lot of walking in our week’s visit. I believe in on-the-ground contact as much as possible in a new place, because it’s the only way to understand the lay of the land and meet the people who live there. You cannot talk to the locals on a tour bus or in a taxi, though you certainly can on a subway or streetcar. Shopping the weekly farmers markets, eating in the side street restaurants and visiting the back alley music venues is the best way to find out what people are doing, thinking, buying and how they are living. Turns out they are doing it all pretty well in Toronto. I hope to return some day and experience more.

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4 Comments

Filed under thought, travel, vacation

4 responses to “Travel That Broadens Your View, Not Your Waistline

  1. I visited Toronto and considered living there. They have a boat load of walking trails and the city is a lot like NY (it’s been said). The day I went they were having some kind of art thing where there were at least full-sized moose in a wild variation of colors parked in strategic places around the city. It was a very fun sight and memorable.

    • nancymn

      I also noticed a fair amount of what we would call “art in public places” kinds of things: large sculptures in courtyards and parks. I like the idea, though some would argue their value as art. I think the debate is the point, really. And yes, all the ethnic neighborhoods do give it a New York City or Los Angeles vibe.

      • I like the “art in public places” theme. There was another city that did something similar with cows. It might have been NYC. I like the idea. It’s conversation starting and fun.

  2. Pingback: Toronto Travel: Record-Breaking Twenty Bars! | A Chocolate Life

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