Travelogue Canada 1: Toronto


21-23 October 2009

Almost didn’t get out of the airport, thanks to Virgin and changing the boarding gate at the last minute without warning. Still, managed to get on (3rd last passenger) and score the emergency exit seats.

Flight was without incident – bar the battle of wits it took to convince the steward that chicken OR beef could actually be chicken AND beef. Am pleased to report that the chicken casserole and roast beef and mash were equally yummy and worth the effort.

The Heathrow Airport 5-hour stop-over went by faster than anticipated thanks to:
1) HMV sale: narrowed it down to about 176 items (totalling the GDP of a small African country, say The Gambia) which I will obsess over until my return to Heathrow next next Sunday
2) a take-away called EAT, which does an awesome toasted Swiss cheese and hickory ham croissant
3) Marion Keyes, officially my new favourite travel partner.

Made friends with the old duck next to me on the Air Canada flight. She was from Winnipeg – where I was headed – and had been on the polar bear tour before. She said it was AMAZING, which was good to hear bearing in mind the effort and expense I was going to for this same adventure.

Enlisted the help of the Travel Aid desk (an Australian; they really are everywhere) to sort out my stay in Toronto. Had arrived with no plans and an open mind and we sussed the best plan to be the Canadiana hostel and public transport. The polar bear people had recommended a hotel @ $138 for the night and coach @ $28; we managed a hostel @ $30 (+$5 deposit for towel and $5 deposit for linen) and $2.25 for the transport, which was a bus and 2 undergrounds depositing me 2 blocks from the hostel. Score!

Found it easy enough. And luckily the evening’s planned activity was free pool at the pub, so showered and headed out to The Charlotte Room with a motley bunch of people from all over. Played shocking pool, but blame the table as is half-size versus thirds we have at home. Not enamoured with $6.25 a pint either!

Headed out from there for a flit through Chinatown and Little Italy, stopping to Fast Food Meze along the way with a KFC snacker (difficult choice as there’s SO much we don’t have at home. was conflicted about starch choice as didn’t want a whole chips and mash & gravy so couldn’t justify the $8 and don’t like the whole sloppy poutine experience they have with chips drizzled in mash and gravy), Taco Bell double cheese tortilla and a McD’s cheese and bacon burger (SO the future – we NEED them at home!!)

Then ambled through Toronto’s main bar streets – Queen St and King St West – and headed for home, which is bunking (literally) in a Quad room I’m sharing with an Indian girl and a French girl. They’re both ‘living’ here at the hostel so it feel more like a slumber party.

Was asleep by 23h30 and woke naturally at 06h45 which leads me to believe that my bio-rhythms think they’re home!


I was a long wait for my free pancake breakfast  at 09h00 (these people are so civilised, breakfast from 9-10 AND they have free wireless even in a hostel. EVERYONE wanders around with their laptops – as you can imagine I feel very left out!)

The morning was dedicated to a city tour – and the hope of finding a Wendy’s, BK and Popeye along the way for snacks and nibbly bits.

The Toronto City Tour was the world’s greatest, with a brilliant guide with a good combo of history and trivia and (seeing as I was the only one on the bus most of the way he shared) some of the left-of-centre factoids that I’m guessing he doesn’t tell just everyone. ;o)

Toronto is a very interesting city. I loved the fact that they have an entire mall/city under the city itself. What’s not to love about 17 square kilometres of shopping under the hustle-bustle of the poor bastards that have to work for a living?!

I was pleased to discover that fast food underground was just as satisfying as overground (although I guess I could have just checked that with The Wombles). I was persuaded through some not-so-subtle indoctrination by the tour guide to sample Tim Hortons – the biggest fast food chain in Canada started by some famous sports guy. The chain controversially bought out Subway and is now based in America – oooo). They’re famous for their soup & sandwich combos… and you know how I feel about sandwiches. I had a (magnificent) french onion soup and chicken / BLT / honey mustard club on sourdough. Woah, awesome!

Blitz tour of Toronto done, it was time to get to the airport to meet Philippa and be off to Winnipeg.