Of all the Canadian cities, Toronto is probably the one I know best. I have a soft spot for the place where I first landed in Canada in 2002, coming directly from Rio de Janeiro with a sweater and a backpack.
Even though Montreal is only a two-hour drive from Ottawa, I don’t care much for it. I don’t mind going there once in a while, there are some nice neighborhoods and it’s always a change of scenery. But it has never been “love at first sight”—quite the opposite, actually, we are never lucky in Montreal! There is something about the culture in Quebec that I don’t get. I just don’t feel close to it, even as a French.
When we go to Toronto, we usually book a chain hotel close to the airport, where rooms are cheap and parking is free. We drive to the downtown core, park somewhere and spend the day exploring our favourite spots, such as Chinatown and Kensington Market. One thing I love in Toronto is that the city is very walkable and the various neighborhoods—and their crowd—are distinct and unique. Old Chinese ladies buying traditional medicine on Spadina, a busker (probably high on helium) twisting balloons into animals and characters for kids in Kensington Market, the Bay Street crowd grabbing after-work drinks in the Entertainment District, the hordes of tourists in front of the CN Tower…
Toronto isn’t perfect, though. Traffic conditions on the 401 can be awful, especially when it’s construction season. Real estate is expensive and the GTA has dozens of soulless suburbs where there isn’t much but cheaper housing. And of course, Rob Ford. Come on, people, Rob Ford!